March 16, 2017

Islam and Christianity

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, March 16, 2017

Islam and Christianity

What follows are some of my thoughts about Islam and Christianity.

Before I begin, please know this: Vandalizing Mosques or otherwise treating Muslims with hatred and disrespect is wrong, period.

But know this, too: Thinking carefully about Islam is NOT Islamophobia. One can have non-phobic, reasonable concerns.

Let's proceed.

The focus of Islam is the Qur'an and Muhammad. Muhammad, according to the Qur'an, is the “seal of the prophets,” i.e., Muhammad is God's latest and greatest prophet. He calls us to submit to God and His Messenger (Muhammad).

According to the Qur'an, Jesus is to be respected. But, although born of a virgin and doer of miracles, Jesus is merely a prophet. Jesus is not God in human flesh, contrary to the New Testament.

According to the Qur'an, and contrary to the New Testament, Jesus didn't die on the cross (somebody else did) and Jesus didn't resurrect bodily after death.

About the Qur'an: Its revelation about Jesus comes to Muhammad via an (alleged) angel, 600 years after Jesus' life, 1000 kilometers away, in a cave.

About the New Testament: It contains historical testimony for Jesus' life that is close to the events temporally and geographically (i.e., it contains accounts of eyewitnesses and close associates of eyewitnesses).

The Qur'an's chapters are ordered from longest to shortest, not chronologically. Chronologically, the Qur'an's peaceful verses occur before Muhammad gains power, whereas its calls to jihad (war on unbelievers/ infidels) occur after Muhammad gains power. According to the Qur'an, the later verses abrogate (cancel) the earlier verses.

According to the Qur'an's last revelation, Muhammad orders his followers to kill infidels, i.e., those who don't agree with his views about God.

According to Islamic tradition (hadith) and biographies of Muhammad (sirah), Muhammad is a warlord, responsible for hundreds of murders plus the enslavement of men, women, and children. 

Also, according to Islamic tradition and the Qur'an, Muhammad has a low view of women (their testimony is worth half that of a man, more women than men will be in hell, they can be beaten) and Muhammad married a girl when she was six, consummating the marriage three years later.

Yes, the Bible has calls to war in the Old Testament. But the Bible's calls to war are specific and limited to particular times and places, whereas the Qur'an's call for jihad is Muhammad's latest revelation and is open-ended—and continues.

According to the New Testament, Jesus promotes his message by allowing his blood to be shed on a cross. But Muhammad, according to the Qur'an and tradition, promotes his message by shedding the blood of others.

Yes, most Muslims don't follow the violent Muhammad, which is good. They elevate his peaceful traits above the violent.

But why do this, if Muhammad's call to violent jihad is his latest revelation and this latest revelation abrogates the earlier peaceful revelation?

If Islamic reform means (at least in part) getting back to basics, what are those basics?

We live in an open society. Surely we should encourage investigation of the evidence of competing religious truth claims, while showing respect to those who hold them.

Such investigation isn't a sign of disrespect, nor is it, in the case of investigating Islam, a case of Islamophobia (just as investigating Christianity isn't a case of disrespect to Christians or Christophobia).

Let's welcome Muslims to Canada, especially if they are fleeing persecution. Let's also encourage careful thinking.

Love and truth-seeking can co-exist.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Providence.)

Recommended resources: 

March 02, 2017

Questioning Islamophobia

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, March 2, 2017

Questioning Islamophobia

There's much talk lately about Islamophobia, so let's be clear on this at the get go: Muslims are people we should love and respect—and welcome.

Although I disagree deeply with Islam (the religion that centers itself on Muhammad and the Qur'an), I believe Jesus' command to love my neighbour requires that I respect those with whom I disagree. After all, all people—including Muslims—are made in the image of God.

But let's be clear on this, too: having reasonable, evidence-based concerns about Islam—especially when adherents closely follow the violent life and teachings of Muhammad—is not an instance of Islamophobia.

Please note: I am NOT saying that all Muslims are monolithic in their views, that all Muslims are terrorists or supporters of ISIS, nor that any Muslims should be treated with prejudice or in any way unjustly.

Rather, I am saying that we need to do some careful thinking.

With this end in mind, let's assess a meme I often see circulating on the internet.

The meme has two pictures with a caption under each. The first picture is of a meeting of several white-robed-white-hooded Ku Klux Klan members. The caption: “No-one thinks that these people are representative of Christians.”

The second picture (immediately below the first) is of a dozen black-garbed-black-masked ISIS fighters with weapons at the ready. The caption: “So why do so many people think that these people are representative of Muslims?”

The apparent implication: just as the KKK isn't Christian, so too ISIS isn't Islamic.

Let's pause and think.

Most or all the Christians and Muslims I know are decent people, and, yes, we should protect them from being misrepresented. So far so good.

But the questions we should be asking are these: Does the KKK actually follow the example and teachings of Jesus? (Answer: clearly no.) Does ISIS actually follow the example and teachings of Muhammad? (Answer: very apparently yes.)

The more I learn about the life and teachings of Muhammad (see resource list below), the more I am convinced that Muhammad was an extremely violent man bent on world domination by force—and he teaches his followers to be and do likewise. (It's interesting that the present leader of ISIS has a PhD in Islamic Studies.)

Unlike Jesus, who shed his own blood for others to spread his message, Muhammad shed the blood of others to impose his message.

Now consider the notion of phobia. A phobia is an irrational or ungrounded fear, aversion, or hatred.

Consider arachnophobia, an irrational ungrounded fear or hatred of spiders. Clearly, it's possible to have reasonable, non-phobic concerns about some spiders if the spiders display evidence of being harmful or lethal to humans.

In recent years I've seen too many public discussions shut down because people who raise important questions are dismissed as "phobic" when in fact they're not. The if-you-disagree-then-you're-phobic card is a smokescreen against truth—it's an ad hominem fallacy—and it misleads audiences untrained in logic.

In view of ISIS and its close affiliation with Muhammad's violent life and teachings, the challenge before us is threefold: (1) we should encourage Muslims who do not emulate Muhammad's violence to continue doing so; (2) we should challenge Islamic leaders whenever they preach Muhammad's violence as behaviour to be emulated; and (3) we should do 1 and 2 in such ways that show love, compassion, and respect to Muslims.

Yes, this is no small challenge. It also isn't Islamophobia.

Speaking truth and loving others can—and should—go hand in hand.

Recommended resources:

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College.) 

February 16, 2017

Ideological investigative journalism

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, February 16, 2017
Ideological investigative journalism

I think there is a need for ideological investigative journalism. By this I mean a form of journalism that examines the ideology (faulty belief system) that lurks behind journalism, often slanting reports and thereby ignoring or misrepresenting truth.

Consider these examples.

A few weeks ago this book was published: Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. Written by veteran journalists Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the book is a true crime story about Philadelphia abortionist and drug dealer Kermit Gosnell who murdered hundreds (perhaps thousands) of born-alive infants by “snipping” their spinal cords with scissors. Gosnell is now serving three consecutive life sentences without parole.

But mainstream journalists didn't dare to challenge the sacred cow of abortion, so they initially gave the trial of Gosnell a pass (until public outcry). This is abortion-friendly ideology at work. We should be grateful to McElhinney and McAleer for courageously challenging this ideology.

Yet things get worse. As the authors report, Gosnell was also given a pass by “pro-choice” politicians and bureaucrats who kept health inspectors at bay. This served to enable Gosnell's grizzly work in a grungy, cat-feces-laden “clinic” staffed with unlicensed “professionals,” resulting also in the deaths of two women. (The doctor even collected severed babies' feet as trophies.)

Back to the book itself. Gosnell quickly climbed to #4 nonfiction bestseller status (#3 on Amazon) but the New York Times excluded it from the top 15 non-fiction list. Go figure.

The citizen's group Accuracy In Media astutely reports: “It is the media’s duty to report the facts, the whole truth… not merely the facts that align with their own biased agenda.” Gosnell co-author McElhinney sums up the situation thus: “The media doesn’t want this story to see the light of day because it shines a negative light on abortion.”

Moving from abortion-friendly ideology at work, let's get more controversial and closer to home. Consider LGBTQ-friendly ideology at work in Canada.

Remember Steinbach's gay pride parade?

CBC News visited Steinbach apparently to cover community views concerning the upcoming gay pride parade (because, yikes, not everyone agrees with the beliefs of the LGBTQ community). Four people were interviewed. Three pro, one con. The one who is con was an old woman who suffers from dementia.

Happily, the CBC deleted the interview with the dementia-stricken woman, thanks to local citizens who expressed concern. Still, the original CBC story had over a thousand shares. Moreover, the revised story only presented pro voices.

Remember the concerns about security at Steinbach's gay pride parade? The original concerns arose out of the parade route going near a construction zone. Later media reports made it seem like the concerns were due to Steinbach's community of anti-gay terrorists.

Remember Steinbach's vigil for the Orlando massacre (the massacre in which Omar Mateen shot 100 gays and lesbians and killed 50 in a nightclub)? The Carillon covered it with a front page article (that spilled over onto page two), an editorial, plus a couple letters.

But no editor or reporter or letter writer (besides a later letter from me) mentioned anything specific about Omar Mateen's motive, i.e., that he was a Muslim jihadist who publicly expressed allegiance to ISIS. Nadda. Nothing.

Yes, we were told there was a terrible massacre at a gay club, which is truly terrible. And then we were told we've got to have more inclusive attitudes about sexual orientation and gender identities, and we should be more accepting of district-school-related issues advanced by the local LGBTQ community.

Wittingly or unwittingly, this was a manipulation of public mourning and outrage in the service of LGBTQ ideological ends. The unspoken suggestion/ implication was that those who disagree are at fault or responsible for the murders at Orlando. But Mateen and ISIS are at fault.

More could be said about Canada's push for Medical Aid In Dying (a.k.a. physician-assisted killing ideology), the Women's March on Washington (abortion-friendly ideology again), and the U.S. election surprise (anti-conservative ideology), but space does not permit.

Ideological investigative journalism—it's what we need in our so-called “post-truth” times.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba.)

February 02, 2017


By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, February 2, 2017


The recent Women's March on Washington (often crude and vulgar) is probably more aptly described as a March for Abortion Choice. As such, it should encourage us to think carefully about the so-called “pro-choice” view on abortion.

Here is some food for thought.

● From Kelsey Kurtinitis, board member of Personhood Iowa and pro-life activist:

I am a woman, and yet the Women’s March on Washington does not represent me.

This is not because of any prejudice I hold—I do not hate women, nor do I suffer from any “internalized misogyny.” No, the Women’s March does not represent me because they have chosen not to.

You see, the Women’s March only believes in the pro-choice buzzword when you choose to agree with them.

● From Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director (and Planned Parenthood 2008 “Employee of the Year”), now pro-life activist:

I hear people chant, “my body, my choice” or “mind your own uterus.”

You would think that after all of the medical technology and scientific breakthroughs that people would understand that we aren't talking about your body. And we certainly aren't talking about your uterus. We are talking about the scientifically proven individual human being that is inside your body.

These chants would only make sense if a woman aborted herself. But she doesn't. She aborts another individual. And that's who we are talking about in the prolife movement.

● From Terry O'Neill, president of the “pro-choice” group NOW (National Organization for Women): “abortion care, no less than contraception, is an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

(What follows are my words.) Huh? Really? Notice the underlying principle of O'Neill's view: I can kill a human being to prevent my heartbreak if this human being will die a natural death.

Notice, too, the logical implications: This opens whole new avenues of “care” to prevent our heartbreak over the elderly, the ill, the homeless, the starving, etc. How? By killing them!

● Objection: But difficulty in policing and enforcing abortion law would render it useless.

Reply: We should note that it is difficult to police and enforce laws against, say, texting and driving, but the law works to discourage texting and driving. The point: if an action kills or threatens to injure innocent others, a law against the action is not unreasonable, even if not 100% effective.

We have room to be creative here. Perhaps a law against abortion should (a) criminalize late-term/ gendercide/ disability abortionists only, not women pressured into abortion, plus (b) help women so pressured (just as our anti-prostitution law criminalizes pimps and johns, not the women pressured into prostitution, plus helps the women get out of prostitution).

Most abortions are due to social problems, whereas abortions for the horrific circumstances of rape, incest, or when a mother's life is threatened account for a small percentage only.

Social problems require social solutions, not the killing of children.

● From Frederica Mathewes-Green, pro-life activist and past vice-president of Feminists for Life America:

In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era.

Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters.

One day, the tide is going to turn. ... The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.

● Note to responsible adults/ parents: Logical dullness and moral callousness seem to be kindred spirits—don’t be duped by them. For our children's sake.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College.)

Note to critics: Please read my other articles on abortion before offering your criticism. Thanks.