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?
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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 whatís 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 Iím 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. Theyíre 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, Iím 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."
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....
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That was a helpful post. Thank you.
Originally Posted by siam
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"It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job". - Douglas Adams.
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? Shakespeareís Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:
go with the flow the river knows . . .
I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.