This FAQ is a bit different from the others on this site. Instead of being made as a response to religious people, it is intended to help answer questions that many people, including atheists, have about certain religious beliefs or what different holy books say. I will be adding to it periodically.
Did Jesus abolish the Old Testament laws so that people don't need to follow them? Doesn't Matthew 5:17-18 say that he did not?The reason this is a confusing subject is due to the language and phrasing used by Jesus and the Christians, which is a result of the Christian effort to create a new theology while also validating their new cult within an Old Testament theology.
The old laws are indeed done with, in the sense that supposedly no one needs to follow them anymore. The idea is that the old laws were meant to serve a purpose - redemption from sin - but now Jesus is fulfilling that purpose. Therefore, he is "fulfilling the laws" not "abolishing" them.Addendum: It's a game of wordplay. This sort of thing is common in religion, because, to speak frankly, religion is all about people trying to live a fantasy story and build to that story over time. It's a game of Pretend for adults who have lost the ability to make a distinction between play and reality. This is the reason that there are such convoluted story lines and illogical explanations for the beliefs of organized religions.
Other examples of attempts to validate a new theological belief system by using strange, vague, convoluted claims to make it fit with a previous belief system include calling Jesus a king so that he counts as the Jewish Messiah, and Islam claiming that Muhammad was actually the last prophet of the previous line of prophets going back to the ones in both the Christian New Testament and Jewish Bible.
Does the Quran say that Christians and Jews will go to Paradise too?No. According to the Quran, people who remain Jews or Christians and do not accept Islam (the Quran, and Muhammad as a true prophet of God) will be tortured in Hell forever.
The misunderstanding about this issue stems from a couple verses in the Quran which on their face, appear to say that Jews and Christians will be saved. These verses have been exploited by many pro-religion liberals and moderate Muslims to spread false information about the Quran to people who have not read the book themselves.
According to the Quran, the only people from among the People of the Book who will enter Paradise are those who believe and act as the Quran commands. Being among the "People of the Book" does not mean that you qualify as a true believer who will escape punishment in Hell.
These verses clearly demonstrate the term "People of the Book" encompasses people who will be sent to Hell (emphasis mine):
Those without faith among the people of the Book, and those who worship idols, do not wish that good should come to you from your Lord. But God chooses whom He likes for His grace; and the bounty of God is infinite.
135. They say: "Become Jews or become Christians, and find the right way."
Say: "No. We follow the way of Abraham the upright, who was not an idolater." 136. Say: "We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, and what had been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their progeny, and that which was given to Moses and Christ, and to all other prophets by the Lord. We make no distinction among them, and we submit to Him." 137. If they come to believe as you did, they will find the right path. If they turn away then they will only oppose; but God will suffice you against them, for God hears all and knows everything.
And even if you were to bring to the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) all the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), they would not follow your Qiblah (prayer direction), nor are you going to follow their Qiblah (prayer direction). And they will not follow each other's Qiblah (prayer direction). Verily, if you follow their desires after that which you have received of knowledge (from Allah), then indeed you will be one of the Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers, etc.).
It is the wish of a section of the People of the Book to lead you astray. But they shall lead astray (Not you), but themselves, and they do not perceive!
Ye People of the Book! Why reject ye the Signs of Allah, of which ye are (Yourselves) witnesses?
Ye People of the Book! Why do ye clothe Truth with falsehood, and conceal the Truth, while ye have knowledge?
O ye who believe! If ye listen to a faction among the People of the Book, they would (indeed) render you apostates after ye have believed!
110. Of all the communities raised among men you are the best, enjoining the
good, forbidding the wrong, and believing in God. If the people of the Book
had come to believe it was best for them; but only some believe, and
transgressors are many.
They are not all alike; of the followers of the Book there is an upright party; they recite Allah's communications in the nighttime and they adore (Him).
They believe in Allah and the last day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and they strive with one another in hastening to good deeds, and those are among the good.
And whatever good they do, they shall not be denied it, and Allah knows those who guard (against evil).
(As for) those who disbelieve, surely neither their wealth nor their children shall avail them in the least against Allah; and these are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide.
O believers, do not hold Jews and Christians as your allies. They are allies of one another; and anyone who makes them his friends is surely one of them; and God does not guide the unjust.
They are surely infidels who say: "God is the Christ, son of Mary." But the Christ had only said: "O children of Israel, worship God who is my Lord and your Lord." Whosoever associates a compeer with God, will have Paradise denied to him by God, and his abode shall be Hell; and the sinners will have none to help them. 73. Disbelievers are they surely who say: "God is the third of the trinity;" but there is no god other than God the one. And if they do not desist from saying what they say, then indeed those among them who persist in disbelief will suffer painful punishment.
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
4. And the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) differed not until after there came to them clear evidence. (i.e. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and whatever was revealed to him).
5. And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him), and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give Zakat: and that is the right religion.
6. Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures.
See my article Who Goes To Hell In Islam? for a full explanation.
God must have inspired the Bible. How else is it possible for forty different authors to write over a span of 1,600 years, on three continents, in three languages, on hundreds of subjects — yet without contradiction?Well the answer is simple. The book wasn't just added to from random independent sources around the world. It was edited countless times by people who had the previous texts and were just making the story up.
These are not independent sources that lack contradiction. They are edited sources, and they are just the remaining ones that have been preserved rather than destroyed.
And they still do have contradictions and inconsistencies in descriptions of God, his nature and behavior, story logic, numbers of people and amounts of money, uncertain proper translations, altered meanings after translation, added or missing parts of stories, and so on (And add to that, contradiction with observable reality itself). In fact millions of Jews don't even agree with Christians that the New Testament is true or matches the prophecy of the messiah due to some of these exact issues between the New testament and the Hebrew Bible.
And regarding the "three continents" claim, Israel sits right near the intersection of three continents and the ideas spread outward from there. Again, the books and letters of the Bible are not independent revelations that inexplicably professed the same beliefs.
Islam teaches that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all religions created by God.That is a misleading statement. Muslims traditionally believe, as a result of Quranic teaching, that there has only ever really been one religion: submission to Allah. And they believe that throughout the ages he has sent new prophets to mankind espousing a consistent message the whole time.
But they believe that although he sends prophets with his message, people either did not conform to the prophets' messages or they diverge from the messages and form wrong beliefs. According to the Quran, all existing forms of Christianity and Judaism are false belief systems for these reasons. God condemns followers of both religions harshly in the Quran.
To stay in God's favor, the Quran explains that believers must always accept the new message sent by the most recent prophet - who today is Muhammad. Thus all Jews and Christians are unbelievers, and their religions are blasphemous and diverge from God's path.Note: The claim that Islam teaches that the other Abrahamic religions are sanctioned by God is often used to support the claim that Islam is inherently a tolerant and accepting religion. We can debate the various issues surrounding tolerance in Islam, but we can clearly point out the flaw in this particular argument since even if the Quran indeed said that God sanctions Judaism and Christianity, it would still be condemning all people who do not adhere to an Abrahamic religion.
Doesn't 2 Samuel 1:26 show that the Bible isn't opposed to homosexuality?For reference, this is the verse in question: I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
1. It is unlikely that this verse is about homosexuality. It doesn't necessarily mean romantic love or sexual attraction. It could be an expression of deep closeness such as soldiers often feel with the men they fought alongside.
2. A verse that merely references two people's good feelings toward each other and has to have a certain interpretation assumed upon it in order to even seem to reference homosexuality, does not remove the verses in the Bible that explicitly condemn homosexual behavior.
3. Viewing verses like 2 Sam 1:26 as referencing homosexuality may just be a cultural difference between the modern West and ancient Israel. You have to take into account the cultures that these writings were produced in, rather than inject your own time and culture's views onto them. So regarding the seemingly "gay" behavior, look at the middle east today for examples of such differences in how we view affection between men. It is normal for two heterosexual men to hold hands while walking in public and show tearful emotions towards other men despite their societies being very anti-gay. To people in the West, that can appear very strange for heterosexual men, but for them it is normal and has nothing to do with homosexuality.
4. The Bible is a collection of writings from many different people so it's also possible that the different authors expressed different views on homosexuality. I don't find the alleged evidence for pro-homosexuality views in the Bible to be convincing, but it's possible. But note that such views would only mean that the Bible's messages are often inconsistent, not that the Bible as a whole isn't opposed to homosexual acts.
If Christianity isn't true, then why did it spread like wildfire?1. We need to remember that history is usually remembered in a way the favors the victor - in this case, Christianity. We have developed a myth that it just exploded in popularity, but it took several centuries to grow and required a lot of active evangelizing by the Christians themselves.
2. It has all the right things in its message for gaining followers: it promises peace and paradise after death just for believing, threatens horrible punishment for disbelieving - neither of which occur until after one dies so no one can test it - and it included ideas of caring for the poor which Christians put into practice and which helped it become popular among the lower classes, it offers total forgiveness and love from a deity to anyone regardless of who they are or what they have do, etc. It is essentially the perfect model for attracting followers.
3. After being adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire, Christianity then spread by violence and force. But that is not any indicator that the mythological beliefs of Christianity are true.
4. Buddhism also grew quickly. And Islam grew faster than any other religion before or after it. Does that make all their beliefs true? Logically no. People can like an idea and it spreads very quickly. That has nothing to do with actually being true or not.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible talked about people being unrighteous or inhospitable, not about homosexuality.In the Torah and Old Testament, the primary point of the story was about being inhospitable. That much is true. But to claim that the story does not also vilify homosexuality is a non sequitur and conclusion that disagrees with the evidence.
The story of Lot are clearly talking about homosexual acts. As far as we can tell, people in Biblical times had no concept of homosexuality being an inherent orientation. Judging by the Bible, it appears that they believed homosexual behavior was a symptom or part of unrighteousness.
In story of Lot, the authors explicitly choose to portray that inhospitality by making the crowd desire homosexual sex, and even turn down Lot's - let's say, generous - offer for them to rape his daughters instead. The authors could have depicted inhospitality in any way they chose, but they specifically chose to portray them as wanting to have sex with men.
And that is the problem with the Biblical view: that homosexuality is equated with evil (along with disbelief in God, and so on).
Also, if one believes the letters of Paul are divinely inspired works, then they must concede that the Bible, in Romans 1:26-32, declares relations between men and women to be "natural" sexuality while same sex relations are called "unnatural" and immoral.
In Christianity and Islam, does Satan rule over Hell?No, the idea of Satan ruling over Hell seems to be a later invention - probably one that came about by mixing with Greek religion which believes in a ruler of the underworld.
But in both the Bible and Quran, Satan is thrown into Hell as a punishment and there is no indication that he would also rule over it. In the Bible he is thrown into a lake of fire to be tormented for eternity (or be destroyed. It isn't completely clear) and the Quran specifically states that the guardians of Hell are 19 angelic wardens appointed by God:
And what will make you realize what hell is?
It leaves naught nor does it spare aught.
It scorches the mortal.
Over it are nineteen.
And We have not made the wardens of the fire others than angels, and We have not made their number but as a trial for those who disbelieve, that those who have been given the book may be certain and those who believe may increase in faith, and those who have been given the book and the believers may not doubt, and that those in whose hearts is a disease and the unbelievers may say: What does Allah mean by this parable? Thus does Allah make err whom He pleases, and He guides whom He pleases, and none knows the hosts of your Lord but He Himself; and this is naught but a reminder to the mortals.
- Quran 74:27-31
The Quran is tolerant of other religions because it calls Christians and Jews 'People of the Book'.1. That term refers only to Jews and Christians, not to any other religious traditions, so that argument does not show any support of other faiths.
2. The word "book" in the term "People of the Book" does not refer to the Quran. The term refers to groups of people who have been sent a message from God before in the form of a holy text prior to the Quran. It is a term dating back to usage by the Jews who called themselves "People of the Book" in reference to the Torah. The Quran adopted this term to refer to Christians and Jews.
3. Being "People of the Book" is not an endorsement or show of tolerance since it does not designate those people as being good. The Quran condemns people who it refers to as People of the Book several times and does not qualify them as believers since they do not accept Muhammad's message. e.g. Quran 2:105, 2:135, 2:145, 3:110, 5:17, 5:51, 5:72-73, 9:29-30, 48:13, 59:2-3, 98:4-6.
Is the references to witches in Exodus 22:18 actually a mistranslation that should in fact say 'poisoners'?See article Witches or Poisoners?.
The gospels refer to real places and real people. This supports the gospel account as being true!False. Many cultures' legends and myths and allegories include references to real settings and real people. But that does not in any way support a claim that every element of a story is true. For example, proving that Krishna existed or that Muhammad really went to Mecca does not therefore mean that the Hindu or Islamic scriptures are true in regard to claims beyond that.
We have endless evidence that people of all religions and political motives distort and lie about events in order to make their side or their leader appear better, so what we need is evidence pertaining to the actual parts we are skeptical of.
If someone said to you "I heard someone say that they saw Pope Francis turn a horse turn into a snake in Italy" then you would justifiably not believe them. What if they pointed out that the story of The Avengers takes place in New York City? Or that the X-Men operate in San Francisco? Would that be evidence that the stories about The Avengers and the X-Men are true? Of course not. The fact that they mentioned real people and places is irrelevant. The issue regards the parts that we do not have evidence for.
Does the Quran forbid depictions of Muhammad?
The Quran never says that it forbids images of Muhammad, but it does condemn worshiping of images (e.g. 21:52-54), and belief in the Quran can of course lead to belief in secondary texts like the hadiths. And in the hadiths, there are commands that forbid all images of living things (which has been part of what has lead Islamic culture to focus on producing beautiful calligraphy and pattern design).
However, in the modern world of photography and the widespread use of images in media, it is extremely difficult to conceive of not featuring any living thing in an image.
So it appears that the combination of all those factors, plus extreme veneration for Muhammad, leads to why they single out depictions of Muhammad as being considered the true offense.
But in short, technically neither the Quran nor hadiths ever single out depictions of Muhammad as forbidden, and thus this particular rule among many Muslims today is rather arbitrary and does not accurately reflect the doctrines of Islam.