Monday, May 10, 2010

Clear thinking in the Caliphate

While countries with Islamic majorities place onerous restrictions on religious thought, the situation was quite different centuries ago.  Consider Abu Bakr al-Razi (856-925):
Al-Razi directed his most vehement attack against the holy books in general, including the Qur'an, because he saw them as illogical and self-contradictory. [...] Furthermore, he found that prophets' pronouncements and stories often contradicted those of other prophets. If their source was divine revelation as is claimed, their views would have been identical. The idea of a divinely-appointed mediator was therefore a myth.
His take on religion in general was particularly clear and modern:
Al-Razi understood the hold of religious belief on society, which he attributed to several factors. Firstly, systems of beliefs spread mainly through the human propensity for imitating and copying others. Secondly, religion's popularity rested on the close alliance between clerics and political rulers. The clerics often used this alliance to impose their own personal beliefs on people by force whenever the power of persuasion failed. Thirdly, the lavish and imposing character of the attire of religious men contributed to the high regard in which they were held by common people. Lastly, with the passage of time religious ideas became so familiar that they turned almost into deep-seated instincts that were no longer questioned.
These passages are taken from a short review of From the History of Atheism in Islam, written in Arabic (in 1945).

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