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Delusion and Worship

Natalia J. Garland

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A Roman Catholic Bishop in Holland has suggested that Christians refer to God as Allah. Bishop Muskens stated that "God doesn't really care how we address Him." Muskens told a Dutch T.V. station, "Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem." Is Muskens correct? Does God not care what we call Him? Or, is Christian reference to God as Allah an expression of interfaith extremism at best, and a delusional approach to terrorism at worst?

(1) Let's begin with a brief discussion on the difference between denial and delusion. Denial is a defense mechanism (an unconscious mental process). If people are in distress, and if the source of their distress is felt as threatening or unacceptable, and if they refuse to acknowledge that source to self and society--then they are in denial. The purpose of a defense mechanism is to reduce anxiety. Now, a delusion involves the distortion of thoughts. A delusion is an irrational belief that has no basis in reality, yet it is defended despite contrary evidence. Denial can sometimes have a positive short-term benefit by allowing people to wait and cope with unacceptable events when they are psychologically ready. Delusions, however, are always abnormal.

(2) When we say that God does not care what we call Him, this is a break with reality. Do you care what people call you? I do. The Bible is specific about the names and titles by which people may address God. For Christians, then, it is not correct that the word God is interchangeable with the word Allah or replaceable by the word Allah. This is not a matter of Christian "bickering" (as Muskens says), but obedience to the teachings of the Bible. The only way to circumvent this is, ultimately, to dismiss the Bible and follow the teachings of the Koran. Having now established my main concern--that some people have become so overwhelmed by terrorist-induced fears that they have taken refuge in delusory thoughts--let me add a few more objections to the reference to God as Allah.

(3) The adoption of the word Allah goes a giant step beyond the mixture of languages for the purpose of an interfaith prayer service or religious harmony. Whether in personal or communal worship, there is no need for Christians to use any foreign terms in their homes or local churches. In America, most of us call God God. Spanish-speakers call God Dios, French-speakers call Him Dieu, and German-speakers call Him Gott. This is normal.

The term Allah, however, embraces more than the Arabic language. Allah is the diety of Islam. Rejection of this term is not a degradation of legitimate Islam, but a preservation of legitimate Christianity. Allah today belongs exclusively to Islam, somewhat in the manner that Jesus Christ belongs to Christianity. Otherwise, American Muslims would use the word God and French Muslims would use Dieu when conversing with others in open society.

(4) The Christian martyrs died for their faith in God. They did not seek interfaith appeasement or linguistic hiding places. Their thoughts were not confused. When faced with the choice between delusory harmony and persecution, they chose persecution.

(5) Although a study in comparative religions is not the focus of today's essay, it must be stated that there are both commonalities and differences among the world's religions. The differences are theologically important and they distinguish one religion from another. In addition, there are sharp differences among Christians of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant religions; and further differences among the various denominations of Protestantism. Theological differences will not be erased, and religions will not become meshed, by use of the word Allah. The gradual and ultimate consequence would be domination by the aggressive and radical Islamic factions.

(6) As mentioned above, there are commonalities among some of the world's religions. Those commonalities involving morality should be used to establish communication in times of crisis, and to promote strength and solidarity in the face of terrorism. The delusional approach to worship--distorting or obliterating essential Christian terminology or beliefs in order to agree with Islam--will not strengthen the rational systems of our society. Quite the opposite, it will teach future generations of Christians to submit to the regulations of Islam, all the while calling it harmony and understanding.

(7) Christians in America and Europe are beginning to encounter what Christians in Eastern Europe experienced under Communist oppression. The Russian Orthodox, for example, had four options: submit to the state, develop underground churches, escape to Western Europe and America, or face persecution. Escape probably would not be an option for contemporary Christians because violent jihadists have infiltrated the world. It is unlikely that there could ever again be any religious movement such as the Church in exile. Underground churches or secret societies, however, could probably keep groups of Christians together, especially so long as the internet remained accessible. Persecution is already happening in some countries (for instance, today marks the 36th day that the South Korean Christians have been held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan; two were martyred, two were freed, and the remaining 19 await their fate). Submission to Islam, at least in the form of appeasement and delusory interfaith worship, is also already happening.

(8) Bishop Muskens said that Dutch Catholics would be referring to God as Allah in their prayers within one or two centuries. Now, Muslim illegal immigrants in Belgium are already being given sanctuary in Roman Catholic Churches. They live in tents pitched inside the churches. In order not to offend these Muslims, the Bishops have permitted them to conduct Islamic services and have even covered statues of the Virgin Mary. Banners with the word Allah written in Arabic are hung in the churches. Is this so very different from what happened to the Byzantine Church of Hagia Sofia in 1453? Several centuries ago, the Muslim residents of Istanbul were the Christian residents of Constantinople.

(9) Let's continue with a simplified discussion of Hagia Sofia. It began on the site of a pagan temple, then became the magnificent Byzantine Church, then got badly damaged during the Fourth Crusade, then was overtaken by Muslims and became a Mosque, and is now a museum. On the one hand, Hagia Sofia has endured centuries of destruction and alteration. It still exists as a structure, and still contains some of the original Byzantine iconography. On the other hand, it has never returned to its intended purpose as a house of Christian worship.

Spiritual deterioration and structural alteration seem to have taken root in the Belgian churches, and seeds are being planted in Holland. The problem is that when Christianity loses its grip on its earthly territory, it is very difficult to preserve heritage and pass on values to future generations. Will the Greeks ever again worship in Hagia Sofia? Will the Russians ever fully recover from Soviet domination? Will the Belgians restore the statues of the Virgin Mary to rightful prominence? Will the Dutch refuse to call God Allah? What lessons are being taught to young Christians and to free societies, and what messages are being sent to Islamic fanatics?

(10) Is there such a thing as moderate Islam? My impression is that many everyday Muslims would prefer to live in an Islamic state, but feel that their government officials could be democratically elected and that other religions could be tolerated. Very few Muslims, however, have spoken against Islamic terrorism. This silence renders the concept of moderate Islam as non-existent. In this vacuum, terrorism is enabled and Christian delusion is nourished.

There are two workable possibilities for Islam. First, there could be a doctrinal reformation of the whole religion, bringing it into the 21st century. This would permit the combination of Islam and democracy, and would permit Muslims to live peacefully in non-Islamic countries and follow the laws of other governments. Second, there could be a protestant splintering which would give Muslims choices in doctrinal emphasis and lifestyle preferences. If there were various denominations of Islam which could peacefully co-exist, such as is true of Protestant Christianity, then perhaps moderate Muslims would acquire a voice against sharia and jihad (or against the distortions thereof).

(11) Similarly, Western Civilization is in need of cultural and spiritual revival. This started to happen after 9/11, but was aborted for reasons which are beyond the scope of today's essay. Nonetheless, as a result of that abortion, the germs of political correctness and thought distortion began to spread throughout America. Americans need to do two things to extinguish these germs. First, as a nation: we must re-establish ourselves as sovereign, democratic, and under God; we must re-gain economic self-sufficiency and military power; and we must re-vitalize Peace Corps activity in other countries. Second, we must eliminate the cultural deviations and psychological sicknesses which permeate our society and which reinforce Islamic justification for jihad: education systems teaching that America is to be blamed; pornography and the myriad manifestations of soft porn on T.V.; and all addictive behaviors.

(12) Finally, let's close today's essay with mention of a proposed code of conduct for Christian missionaries. It appears that the World Council of Churches and leaders of the major Christian religions are working on a code of conduct for evangelization that will both promote freedom of religious expression and avoid conflict with locally established religions, particularly Islam and Hinduism. Since Protestants send out more missionaries than any other religion, it seems that the code might also have the effect of obstructing Catholics from conversion to Pentecostalism. However, it is also possible that the code will contribute to the delusion that pleasing the Islamic fanatics will make the world a better place. Why not develop a code of conduct for the Taliban kidnappers of the South Korean Christians?

[NOTE: The remarks of Bishop Muskens were mentioned for illustrative purposes only. This essay is not intended to serve as a statement on Muskens' moral character or mental stability. This essay is a work in progress, not a finished product, and is therefore subject to error. The ideas expressed are based on personal opinion and are not intended to carry official diagnostic value. Some experts do not include culturally-based or religious beliefs in the definition of delusion, while other experts accept that entire cultures or societies can be regarded as mentally ill. There is a DSM-IV category of Shared Psychotic Disorder which, although considered rare, is based on the infection of delusion(s) from one person to another or to a group.] (Written 08/24/07)


After more research into the topic of moderate Islam, it becomes necessary for me to modify some of the material presented in (10) above. It seems there are many versions of Islam, ranging from the fanatic to various protestant divisions among both fanatics and moderates. In fact, Mohammed Al-Abassi wrote an article entitled, "Protestant Islam." In it, he says the following.

Not only are the Muslim Protestants (salafis, as they inaccurately call themselves), at loggerheads with traditional orthodox ulema, but they find it notoriously hard to agree among themselves. In Egypt alone, it is estimated that there are over seven hundred salafi groups, between whom bitter arguments and even violent clashes are depressingly common. In Afghanistan, the inability of the wahhabi fighters to tolerate the existence of other readings of Islam has plunged the country into a civil war which has caused more damage than ten years of Russian occupation. The reason for this intolerance and discord is obvious. Now that the Four Schools have been dismissed as innovation (bid'a), each Protestant Muslim is expected to refer directly to the Quran and Hadith to discover the doctrines and rites of religion. The result has been predictable: instead of four schools, we now have thousands. Even in Britain, there are Muslim groups whose contact with traditional education is so tenuous that they refer to translations of the Quran and Sunna, rather than asking experts or consulting properly researched works of fiqh and aqida. To mention their names would be both unnecessary and unkind, but we are all familiar with the fanatical rigour and bizarre interpretations they can come up with, and the strange delight they appear to take in attacking all who differ from their totalitarian and shallow view of religion.
[End of quote.]

The protestant divisions in Islam seem to be different from those in current Christianity. America began, in part, as a protestant movement: that is, as flight and refuge from oppressive authority and rigid dogma that permitted no opportunities and no questions, disagreement, or debate. Although some of the protestant sects themselves were narrow-minded and exclusionary, American protestantism generated choices which were not readily available under countries having a theocracy or a national religion.

Generally, the current Protestant divisions tolerate one another although in disagreement with and critical of one another. America's protestant tendency has been of benefit to all religions in the country: to the traditional and orthodox, to various branches of the basic Christian tree as well as to heretical sub-groups, and to non-Christian religions. Although each organized church or group might claim rightness, there is not overt hostility among them.

Americans, however, currently face a different type of problem: domination not by internal religious fanaticism, but by multicultural extremism and aetheistic aggression. Both of these groups seem to have the self-righteous goal to remove God from public service and to portray Christians as haters. Disagreement with popular culture on the basis of faith is not tolerated by certain outspoken citizens, advocacy groups, and lawyers. The dangerous tendency in America is political correctness and the silencing of Christians. (Written 01/19/09: bibliography available.)

[NOTE: For another essay on a similar topic, see We Do Not All Worship the Same God (written 10/29/07).]

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2007, 2009 Natalia J. Garland