Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More Law

I feel like law, Jewish, sharia, or other, is a topic that comes up way too much on this site. Law is not the spirit of a religion but simply a result of it. If everyone were to follow the spirit perfectly, the law would be unnecessary. If there were no theft, murder, adultury, greed, jealousy, or hate, there would be no need for laws. I should be addressing the spirit underlying the different religions. However, as all religions have basically the same intentions and I'm not trying to differentiate between goals but between authenticity, I have to analyze what I can. Since much of the Bible addresses law, I'll analyze it. I'll just save spirit for another day.

Jesus said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).

This quote, more than any other that comes to mind at the moment, worries me. If Jesus did not come to change the law then why don't Christians adhere to the stricter set of laws followed by Judaism? I've heard and read that Jesus' sacrifice fulfilled the "until everything is accomplished" clause of the above quote but that seems to completely ignore the "until heaven and earth disappear" clause. It seems to me from the current state of the Earth that there is still much to be accomplished. I could easily accept that Jesus' second coming with accomplish all that there is to be accomplished. He will raise the dead, separate good from evil, and bring about God's kingdom here on Earth. At that point, all will be living in God's paradisial utopia where there is no law because no law is necessary. Everyone loves and respects each other and praises God perfectly. At that point, not only is Jesus' job complete but the current heaven and earth will have disappeared to be replaced by the new Eden.

It would be more convincing if Jesus had, after his resurrection, then begun ignoring the Mosaic laws but I know no mention of Jesus or his disciples doing so until later when the apostles began preaching to the Gentiles who did not follow Judaic law. I suppose it could be argued that Jesus had not completed his task at the time of the resurrection and did not do so until his ascension. However, the fact that the Mosaic laws held firm until conversion of the Gentiles began makes me question the validity of throwing away the Mosaic laws.

This didn't stop me from eating our Christmas ham this week. As I said, unless I convert, I'm sticking with Christianity, which means I drink wine and eat ham. However, these thoughts and questions are floating around my head through any of these questionable activities.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

At the moment I'm visiting my parents for Christmas. My siblings are here visiting as well so we're all together as a family, which is a blessing.

While attending church with my family this Sunday and again this evening for Christmas Eve, I've been hit by some pretty hard feelings. As I've mentioned in the past, should I convert, I expect the holidays and family events to be the hardest parts. I haven't converted, the family events are wonderful, but the holiday is still a little tough. Truthfully, my eyes watered and I almost cried a few times while at church at the thought of leaving behind everything that I've believed for so many years.

I've decided that Islam appeals to the mind whereas Christianity appeals to the heart. The thing I like about Islam is that the contradictions of Christianity appear to be accounted for; there's no Trinity to boggle the mind. Obviously, faith is required but it is much more straightforward and well laid-out. However, when attending jumuah, I've never once had the feeling of spiritual communion with God that I often have while attending church services.

Jumuah consists of a lesson, prayer, and fellowship. They're informational and effective; you learn, you pray, you be friendly to your neighbors; in the prayers I assume the usual praise, concerns, and thanks take place but it's not a very joyful atmosphere. Church, on the other hand, has all of the above but adds spirit. Besides just listening to the readings and the sermon, the congregation participates in the sacraments and gives praise through song. The entire package is a much more spiritual experience than jumuah. I'm sure there are also spiritual Islamic events, I've been told that hajj is a very powerful experience, but jumuahs, at least the ones I've attended, aren't.

Spirituality is an important part of religion but it can definitely go overboard. However, religion lacking spirituality is simply dry rules and regulations; it's law. I can't accept a religion without spirituality but, on the other hand, there needs to be substance behind the spirit. Both have substance but at the moment I'm having trouble unraveling Christianity's. I'm able to understand Islam's substance but can't find the spirit.

In any case, I need to wrap it up for the night so Merry Christmas or Happy Eid!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Now that Christmas season is upon us, I'm having recurrences of guilt about my exploration of Islam. I feel like I'm betraying Jesus, whom I've come to love deeply throughout my life. From the earliest years of my life I'd been attending Sunday school, singing "Jesus Loves Me," celebrating his birth, mourning his death, and rejoicing at his resurrection. He's been my Lord and Redeemer and I kind of feel like I'm just dropping him for the new guy.

Obviously, there's no need to feel guilty if Jesus was actually the Muslim version of Jesus rather than the Christian version. If Jesus was only a prophet and not the earthly incarnation of God, then as God's prophet he wouldn't want to be worshiped. This, of course, brings us back to the root of the problem... was Jesus simply a prophet or was Jesus the Son of God, sacrificed for our sins, resurrected on the third day?

Even though Easter is the most important holiday in Christianity, Christmas is always the season that most reminds me of Christianity. Although Christmas has been overly commercialized and many people go through the Christmas season without ever giving a thought to the reason for the holiday, the decorations, food, and music are a constant reminder to those who are conscious of the reason. The rest of the year it's easy to lose sight of God. Most of society is secular and one has to work to keep God in focus. During Lent it's a little easier because fasting is a constant reminder; I'm sure Ramadan is the same. However, during Christmas, secular society hangs out all sorts of reminders of God and Jesus.

More important than the community traditions are my family traditions, which are probably pretty common among American families. What makes them important is that they are my best memories. As a child, I spent my everyday with my immediate family but the holidays were also spent with my extended family, which made them special. We'd get dressed up, have nice meals, go to candlelight vesper services at church, and gather together to open presents and play games. Now, that my siblings and I are adults and scattered around the country, the holidays are one of the few times I see my family each year and I just keep adding to my best memories. Without Christmas, I wouldn't have any special time with my family. I could still visit but the chances of all of us being together at once is slim without a special occasion as a catalyst. Even if it did happen, the magic of Christmas would be missing.

Truthfully, without family, this whole process would be much easier. It's not that my friends won't question me; I wouldn't be surprised if a few are absolutely horrified. However, I don't hold them on the same level as my family. I've gained and lost friends in the past but one can't just make new family. My parents brought me into this world and raised me. They made me who I am and gave me so so much. Growing up with my siblings, they were always my closest friends. Of course we fought plenty but now they're my closest friends.

However, my relationship with God comes above my relationship with anyone else so, if it comes to that, it's a sacrifice I'll have to make.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Silent Blogger is open to YOUR suggestions!!!

I haven't posted anything in a good long while. I had been very busy with some deadlines leading up to Thanksgiving. Now, I'm back to my normal schedule, still busy as always but with enough spare time to breathe and do a few other activities.

Thus, I've been meaning to and wanting to post for the last week but I'm unable to think of anything to say. I've been doing my usual reading, recently mostly the Quran with some Bible thrown in. I haven't read anything else like my occasional history or theology from any of my random sources. I've been going to church and jumuah like usual but nothing there has inspired me or made me wonder. I know there was at least one thing I read that I wanted to comment on but I didn't write it down and I've long since forgotten. It's very possible that the same has happened with sermons and khutbahs.

I don't think I'm in a slump of any sort; I just don't have anything to say at the moment. Therefore, I'm reaching out to my readers for suggestions. If you have anything you think I should look at or if there's anything relevant that's been on your mind, please suggest or comment. I really always intended on this being more of a forum than a blog, mostly because I was seeking advice and encouragement, so I'll steer more in that direction for the time being.

On that note, I also intend to look back over my old posts and their accompanying comments to see if they can get my brain working again. One comment suggested I talk to my local clergy in person and make use of the intimacy of one-on-one conversations that is lacking in online forums. I do intend to do that but I'm going to put it off until after Christmas just because I'd rather not have the many interruptions on both of our parts that accompany the season.

So for now, I'll just continue on my way doing my usual thing, reading and thinking. I actually do talk to people in person sometimes but it's a very select few and they're not formally trained in theology, just another lay person like myself.

Until I post again, which hopefully will be soon, peace be with you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Although I'm still busy and will be so until Thanksgiving rolls around, I've kept up with my reading to a lesser extent. I've had a few thoughts that I'll address sometime later when I have a bit longer.

However, for now, I just wanted to express something that struck me this morning in church. Throughout this process, I've been doing lots of reading and lots of talking. The reading helps me to be informed, the talking helps me to organize my thoughts and provide entertainment for my one reader, not to mention that I get valuable feedback that helps me further refine my thoughts. I've prayed lots for all my regular things but also a ton for guidance. I ask for forgiveness and patience during my time of wandering and confusion. Mostly, however, I ask to be led to God's truth, to God's path. I ask God to teach me right from wrong, to help me not to be misled by those who, intentionally or out of ignorance, point me in the wrong direction. I've been asking and begging and pleading and talking and talking and talking but just this morning I realized that I haven't really stopped to listen.

Whatever I'm reading, of course, speaks to whatever my current thoughts and concerns are. Often I find that reading is simply another form of listening. However, my prayers are just concerns, requests, complaints, and praises. I never take the time to allow God to use my prayer as a two-way communication medium.

So from now on, I'm going to try to give myself an extra few minutes whenever I explicitly pray* to just clear my head and listen. I suppose it's basically meditation but I prefer to think of it as changing my prayer from a monologue directed at God to a dialogue with God. Religion is all about one's relationship with God and a dialogue between two people seems much more indicative of a relationship than one person talking at another.

* Explicit prayer meaning when I stop and pray with the sole intention of praying as opposed to praying throughout my day during my regular, daily activities. I've been trying to keep God on my mind and in my heart all the time rather than just an occasional thought whenever I pray. If you truly love, honor, respect, and fear God, then you shouldn't have to actively think about Him, he should be in everything you think, say, and do without trying.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Religous Extremists

This is a topic that needs to be addressed at some point so I might as well have a go at it now. This part isn't so much for me as for critics who would immediately point at radical Islam and ask how I could even consider it as my religion.

My answer to that question is that it's very easy when you realize that radical Islam is just as representative of true Islam as radical Christianity is representative of true Christianity. By radical Christianity, I don't mean pro-life Catholics or born-again Biblical literalists, I mean the kind who take radical measures like bombing abortion clinics or missionaries who torture the natives into accepting Christianity or kill them in the process.

Even most non-Muslims are aware that the terrorist acts performed in the name of Islam are condemned by most of the Muslim world. However, the strict enforcement of what is called Sharia law is opposed by many conservative Muslims as well. I'm obviously far from well-educated when it comes to Islam but I think that many of the current oppressive Islamic regimes go against the teachings and spirit of Islam in their practices.

For instance, one issue that is frequently raised against Islam is its treatment of women. Even though Muslims will tell you that Islam glorifies women and promotes fair treatment of women, that is not the case in many Muslims countries. However, these strict laws are not taught by Islam but are simply the result of Muslim societies creating overly-strict laws by extending Islamic rules or simply perpetuating strict cultural practices and claiming that they are required by Islam.

The following quote is from this article on CNN about men and women at Hajj.
"Why do Muslim women seem to have fewer rights than their men?"
In theory, they don't. For about 1,500 years, women under Islamic laws have had rights that might have surprised their counterparts in other religions, such as the right to independent wealth and property -- which can even be kept private from a woman's husband. One staunch feminist living in Saudi Arabia pointed out in an interview that the arrival of Islam, particularly in Middle Eastern countries, actually improved conditions for women. She said before then, the pagan, often nomadic, tribes treated women like easily discarded property. Islam set standards that looked after women's interests and protected them from men.

In fact, Christianity has a long history of oppressing women that only recently ended. Without having to do any research, I knew Paul's statement that women should not speak in church and should ask their husbands any questions once they are in the privacy of their own homes. However, once I started doing a little research, it appears that Jewish and Christian teachings about women are usually more oppressive than the Islamic teachings. This article addresses many women's issues from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic perspectives with many quotes from the Bible and the Quran as well as rabbis and saints. Of all the topics addressed: education, impurity of women, witnessing, adultery, vows, property, divorce, motherhood, widowhood, polygamy, and the head cover, with the exception of the head cover, Islam actually does more to protect women and ensure their rights than Judaism and Christianity. When it comes to head coverings both Judaism and Christianity have a tradition of women covering their heads. There is nothing mentioned in the Old Testament, although there are apparently rabbinic teachings requiring head coverings. In the New Testament women are instructed to cover their heads when praying, a practice that is still observed by many older Orthodox women, I've noticed, but it makes no mention of their daily lives.

We ignore the fact that Christian culture, in its modernization, has gone against Biblical teachings about women and pushed for gender equality. For some reason, we choose not to treat Islam equally and blame the backwards state of certain Islamic regimes as culture but we blame it on the religion instead. If we go back to the Bible and even Christian tradition and look at Christianity rather than modern Christian cultures, we see that Christianity affords fewer rights to women than Islam.

My main point, throughout all this, is that the extreme practices, teachings, and actions done in the name of Islam does not fairly reflect the religion. Similarly, just because modern "Christian" countries have modernized and ensure certain rights to people does not mean that Christianity necessarily promotes those ideals. I guess, in summary, I'm saying to judge a religion first on its teachings and second on its followers and try to distinguish between those who truly practice the religion from those who carry out their own wishes in the name of that religion.

This post has somehow turned mostly into a discussion of women in Islam, although I believe that terrorist Islamic thinking is simply the extreme form of the same train of thought that leads to oppression of women. If terrorism needs to be addressed as its own subject, I can return to that later but I feel this expresses my general thoughts on religious extremism in general.

When it comes to Islamic extremism, people usually think of Taliban Afghanistan or Iran but I believe Saudi Arabia even goes far beyond Islamic teachings in its oppression of women. Islam's laws try to promote respect toward women by keeping them from being objectified as sexual objects. This requires a basic amount of modesty. Likewise, Islam teaches men to avoid tempting situations so as not to have impure thoughts. However, not permitting women to travel alone or drive cars is taking that to a far extreme. Just as the primary opinion is that a women's face and hands may be exposed for practical purposes, it is only practical to allow women to move about to conduct daily tasks. How can a woman work if she cannot travel without her husband? (Remember that Mohammad's first wife, Khadija, was a business woman.) Similarly, how can a non-working woman run errands, go shopping, take the kids to the doctor, or accomplish anything if she is always tied to her husband? I know my mom had a full time job just being a mom; if my dad had to accompany her while also keeping his employment, he never would have slept.

I'm interested in what Muslims have to say about this. I'm sure most think that the Taliban are extreme but will they sympathize with my opinions about Saudi as well?

(As a footnote, I feel like this post was even less connected and logical than most; maybe I'm just out of practice after such a long pause.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I've got a lot going on right now with upcoming deadlines and such. As a result, I haven't had much time to write but I still read most every day. Aside from my usual reading of the Bible and the Quran, I've also been reading this article about Catholicism, Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible that was recommended to me by in a recent reply to one of my posts.

I primarily didn't want people to think I had abandoned this site; I'll be back and writing again soon, hopefully.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More free will... this time with special guest, Jonah!

After the previous post about free will, I started thinking about stories of prophets from the Bible. Lucky for me, they also happen to be mentioned in the Quran so it makes it that much easier to converse with both sides. Initially, I began by recalling the story of Jonah (Yunus in Islam.)

Although God had given Jonah free will, He still had a plan for him. God wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah, a large city that was full of sin and sinners, and warn them against their wrong deeds. Jonah didn't want to do this and attempted to escape his God-given responsibilities. He tries to run away and sail to another country when the ship he had hired hit a great storm. Once the sailors realize that Jonah is the cause of the storm and there's no other escape, they throw him overboard and the waters calm. Jonah is then swallowed by a great fish where he is stranded for three days and eventually repents and asks for God's forgiveness. The fish then spits Jonah onto the shore where he fulfills his duty and prophesies to Ninevah (there's a little more to the story but it doesn't apply to this conversation.)

In this story we see that God has chosen Jonah for a particular role. However, Jonah, being a man, has the gift of free will. His will just happens to oppose God's will, as is evidenced by his attempted escape. However, Jonah's will is feeble compared to God's will and Jonah's greatest attempt to avoid God's calling is a joke compared to God's overarching dominion of the universe. God didn't impose on Jonah's will by simply changing his desire to avoid his responsibility. Jonah's will remained intact and God simply reminded him that God knows best and man doesn't.

It actually kind of reminds me of a parent-child relationship. The parent knows best but the child sometimes rebels. When the parent makes a child eat vegetables, the child's will remains unchanged but even the strongest, most stubborn child will give in given enough time and coercion. God has a plan for each of us; we can make decisions to resist that plan and rebel but given enough time and coercion, we'll bend and accept God's will.

Obviously, many people are more than happy to accept God's will from the beginning. Our free will still gets in the way and we rebel from time to time but when one's will aligns with God's will, your spiritual life should go smoothly even though you might have to occasionally withstand the slings and arrows of a cruel, secular world.

This brings up a related question, though. If we all eventually give in to God's overpowering will, why wouldn't everyone eventually go to Heaven? I think that God's always pushing and prying us to follow Him, which provides the coercion, so eventually everyone would come to the truth. However, since man has only a finite lifespan, those who are stubborn enough can make it through their whole life without listening to God's constant call. To go back to the parent-child analogy, if the child is stubborn enough, eventually the evening has passed and it's bedtime. If the vegetables are still sitting on the plate and the kid's still sitting at the table, you've got to give up, accept defeat, and send the kid to bed.

However, this theory somewhat contradicts "whomever Allah guides, there is none who can lead them astray and whomever Allah leads astray, there is none who can guide them." This implies that there are some people whom God completely refuses the prospect of Heaven. This means that God is not calling all people and it's up to each individual person to choose to follow God. This means that some people are called by God and others are turned away. Those who are called are already accepted into Heaven and those who aren't can't ever attain Heaven regardless of their wills. I find this hard to accept.

My frequent (and possibly only) reader Azooz commented on my last post with a story about a smart farmer with 6 sons, the father can "predict" how each one will perform in a situation and thus chose among them - each son would have characteristics and behaviors and from those the father could "guess" fairly well how each would behave, God created it all, the father and his sons, and would know beater than all.

This makes sense to me. God created us all and knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we'll think, what we'll say, and how we'll act long before we do. In this case, God's not choosing to guide or lead astray but, rather, He's simply not wasting time on those who won't accept His guidance. He truly wants everyone to follow him but, because He gave man the option not to, He knows many will refuse Him and go their own way.

I can accept this but I still don't think this explanation quite meshes with the "whomever Allah..." phrase. We'll have to think about it some more.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Islam & Free Will?

Everytime I go to the mosque for jumuah, there's one phrase at the very beginning of every khutbah that gets me thinking. "Whomever Allah guides no one can lead astray and whomever He misguides will find none to guide him aright." What worries me are its implications on free will. It sounds like we're predestined to either paradise or damnation; it sounds very Calvinist.

In the Quran, most things seem to mesh fairly well with discussions of free will in Christianity. God is omnipotent and has created the entire universe. Everything in the universe acts according to God's will but God has given mankind the gift of free will. If man chooses to do good then he is rewarded whereas if he chooses evil, he is punished.

However, in both the Bible and the Quran there are places that imply that man is under God's control. The quote with which I opened is an example of this, although I'm not sure if that's from the Quran or from where it comes. In any case, it implies that if your actions are good, it is due to God's guidance, and if they are evil, it is due to God's lack of guidance. Another disturbing ayah is "Whether you warn them or warn them not, they will not believe you. God has placed a seal on their hearts; there is a veil over their ears and their eyes, and a painful torment awaits them." (2:6-7)* According to these, man does not choose to disobey God but rather God chose for them. Thus, at the beginning of time God chose our fates, paradise or damnation, and we have no choice in the matter. If this is the case, God is unfair to reward or punish people even though they have no say in their actions.

However, other ayat such as "We have shown man the path of truth and the path of falsehood; he may choose either the path of guidance and offer the thanks, or choose the path of ingratitude" (76:3))* lay out very clearly that we are given free will and our decisions in life affect our final state in the afterlife.

Like I said, the same free-will versus predestination argument rages in Christianity with Bible verses supporting both sides. However, none of the verses that are used to support predestination seem to be quite as clear-cut as these. It's sometimes an interesting topic to discuss but it can be equally disturbing if you really think about it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Questioning Paul

I don't know why I put Paul and John of Patmos into a different category than Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the Old Testament authors. For some reason the Old Testament authors were prophets whereas I think of the New Testament authors as historians documenting Jesus' life and sayings. That's obviously not the case as 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament were written by Paul and even the Gospels are accepted as not written by those who knew Jesus during his lifetime.

I have a hard time completely dismissing those books as, using that argument, one would have to dismiss almost the entire Bible. Oral tradition has been a long-standing means of communication and that's how most of the scripture was transmitted throughout time. My problem is when the writers or repeaters add to or subtract from the original content.

Paul of Tarsus was a well-known persecutor of the early Christians. Then, on the road to Damascus, he was struck with a vision of Jesus and instructed to preach his word. I don't know why I can accept the prophets having visions and being divinely guided but have a problem with the Apostles and Disciples. I think in my mind, they were instructed to teach Jesus' message and not to create. I realize that the message given by Jesus (or any prophet, for that matter) was incomplete and needed to be interpreted but obviously many people in early Christianity, even within the circle of the Apostles, have many different interpretations. The interpretations I trust most are, naturally, those from the people who actually knew and were directly taught by Jesus. However, very little is reliably attributed to the original Apostles, indeed, the majority of the New Testament is attributed to Paul and Luke, a follower of Paul.

If Paul were indeed divinely inspired, I would expect his words to be accurate. Paul obviously believed that the apocalypse would occur very soon, during the lives of some of his audience. I can assure you that now, almost two thousand years later, none of Paul's original audience are still alive. Also, Paul's disagreements with other leaders of the early church. Indeed, the term "Pauline Christianity" is used to highlight his extreme influence on the formation of Christianity, regardless of the ideological differences between him and the Apostles heading the early Christian church of Jerusalem.

On the other hand, regardless of ideological differences, the original Apostles did accept Paul and charge him with teaching the Gentiles. If he did go astray, it wasn't initially when he was still in agreement with the others. I just wish there were documents from other writers that affirm or refute Paul's teachings. I feel like the more I read, the more I know how many different hypotheses exist and the less sure I am about anything.

Also, this would be a great time for someone with some formal Christian theological education to chime in. Although I've emailed numerous pastors, priests, and seminary professors to represent Christianity, none have commented on a post or replied to my email. The only voice of Christianity thus far was a one-time visitor who commented on a post. Representing Islam I've had at least one email reply from an imam and the continual comments from my Saudi friend. You'd think the pastors would be more interested in keeping their sheep from straying. Maybe they're turned off by the anonymity.

Friday, October 5, 2007

More Confusion?

I feel like I'm often very pro-Islam for some reason. I've justified it in the past with the excuse that my Christian upbringing leads me to read primarily about Islam as that's where my knowledge is most lacking. However, after my last post, I realized that I need to apply the same criticism to Islam as to Christianity. In particular, my argument about the Trinity being complex and mysterious and my desire to believe that God wouldn't ask us to accept anything too terribly confusing.

If you're unfamiliar with Islam's story of Jesus, I'll give a brief, hopefully accurate but definitely incomplete, summary. Islam, like Christianity, believes that Mary was approached by the archangel Gabriel and informed of her virgin pregnancy. Mary she left town to give birth in the wilderness under a date tree and was made unable to speak about her pregnancy and birth upon returning to town with the baby Jesus. Since his mother was unable to defend herself against accusations of unchastity, the baby Jesus miraculously spoke and defended her, which then broke the seal on his mother's lips. His miraculous conception and birth, however, did not make him a deity any more than Adam, Eve, or Melchizedek are deities although they were created by God without father or mother.

Jesus' mission, according to Islam, is very similar to his mission according to Christianity. He wandered through Israel and Judea performing miracles and teaching the Gospel. However, this was done as a prophet of God rather than as Son of God. Islam (as a majority, although this also states a different viewpoint) does not believe that Jesus was crucified but was simply made to look crucified, either through being replaced by a look-a-like or else by simply fainting on the cross and then waking in the tomb. Most Muslims believe that Jesus was taken up to heaven by God while still alive and will again come, just as in Christianity, at the end of days to establish Islam as the world's religion and abolish all others.

Until just now when reading the differing viewpoints of Jesus within Islam, I had only been aware of the theory where Jesus was replaced with another man made to look like him. This is the point I wanted to refute as confusing. Why would God make it look like Jesus was crucified if we are all supposed to believe otherwise? It would be one thing if only the Romans and his Jewish enemies were convinced of his death but his followers and even his mother witnessed and believed his death.

Of course, now as I write my argument, I'm finding holes. If Jesus didn't claim to be the son of God, it wouldn't matter if he died or not. Whether Jesus the prophet died on the cross or not, he still spent his life teaching God's word and performing miracles in His name. Whether Jesus the prophet was raised to Heaven while still alive or he died a natural death beforehand, he still spent his life teaching God's word and performing miracles in His name. Jesus' crucifixion only really matters if Jesus is not just a prophet but God's Son, sent to pay for the sins of the world through his suffering on the cross and his following internment in Hell before being raised on the third day.

I definitely agree with the arguments that Jesus' staged death is tricky and not very consistent with my impression of God. However, as I stated in the last paragraph, I don't know if it matters much unless it is a central facet of your religion. If Jesus hasn't been crucified but had died a natural death, couldn't he still be deified? Indeed, many religions don't even wait for someone to die before declaring them as gods; for instance, the Dalai Lama or all the many kings and rulers who were worshipped as gods (in the literal sense) by all their subordinates.

I guess I didn't have any revelations in today's post. Oh well, you can't find enlightenment everyday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Intellect, the Bible, and the Quran

One of the things I really like about Islamic culture is the intellectual nature of it. The fact that Mohammad's first revelation was "Read!" is indicative of that nature. My understanding is that every Muslim is supposed to read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan. Additionally, Quranic memorization is a common occurrence and there is even a well-developed science to reading the Quran.

This stands in stark contrast to much of Christianity, where many people never read the Bible and indeed for centuries only the clergy and well educated had access to Bibles. Although the Roman Catholic church insisted on keeping mass in Latin for centuries, it made no effort to educate people in Latin. It wasn't until relatively recently that colloquial translations of the Bible were made.

Islam is similar in its sticking to Arabic but it stresses learning and reading Arabic for all Muslims, not just the clergy and affluent. In this way, religion has a place in the lives of everyday, common man rather than just those with the money and time to pursue such studies.

This intellectual side is also evident in the Quran, which states that one should understand and not simply blindly follow what you're told. I very much respect this questioning of religion as blind acceptance of anything is dangerous, in my opinion. I feel like if you're going to believe something and follow something, whether it's religious, political, or scientific, you should be able to logically explain your belief. Blind acceptance without question leads to fascism in government and extremist cults in religion. I don't claim that Islam is without this blind acceptance or that Christianity is without intellectualism; I just appreciate how it seems to be a central facet to Islam.

Anyway, after I started my questioning of everything, my regular reading of my Bible changed drastically. I began noticing many little things that didn't quite make sense. One of these oddities was Jesus' praying to God. I couldn't figure out why Jesus, as a part of God through the Trinity, would need to pray. I can accept him leading prayer amongst others but his individual prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane doesn't make any sense to me. As a part of God, it seems to me that he's praying to himself. Is he asking himself for intervention or blessing?

I asked my Pastor this question and I wasn't terribly pleased with the response. I was told that it is part of the mystery that is God. The question was actually reflected back to me: how would I, as a believer, explain it to a non-believer? It actually makes me think of the movie Contact where the scientists state that the simple solution is most probably fact, Occam's razor. It's much more natural to accept a god that's clearly understandable and plainly laid out. The whole "mystery of God" thing is fairly unappealing. I don't claim that God must be entirely comprehensible to man but if God wants man to worship and follow him, I think he would clarify important issues such as these.

Another thing that I noticed while reading, although the Quran this time, was the mention of the Holy Spirit. In sura Baqara, 2:87, "We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit." I also noticed it later on in the same sura but I didn't write down which ayah. I also should've noted the Arabic word that was translated to Holy Spirit. What surprised me was the fact that it was captalized, especially given its meaning in Christianity. I can understand the Quran referencing the spirit as a characteristic of God but the "Holy Spirit" has a well-defined meaning in the mind of Christians. For this reason alone, I would expect the translator to avoid that phrase, especially capitalized as it is.

Anyway, my reading of both the Bible and the Quran continue. We'll see what I pick up on next.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Islamic Law

I received an email response to my blog entry that addressed Jesus' peaceful teachings versus Mohammad's occasionally unpeaceful teaching. The response pointed out that along with the different messages, the men had very different roles in society. Whereas Jesus was only a preacher, Mohammad was a community leader. In this respect, it would be much more fair to compare Mohammad to Moses or Joshua than to Jesus. When that comparison is made, Mohammad comes out to be the the more peaceful of the group. Whereas Islam's spread permitted the conquered inhabitants to remain in their land and even retain their religion, the Israelites conquering the Promised Land drove out and killed all previous inhabitants. Even this comparison, however, is unfair as Islam's conquests were not aimed at procuring land but at expanding the empire and, in some cases*, to spread Islam.

In any case, blanket statements calling Jesus peaceful and Mohammad violent would be far from accurate. Jesus' teachings address personal behavior whereas Muhammad addresses all aspects of life just as the Jewish law does.

Since I seem to be retracting previous statements, I guess this would be a good time to confess my lack of understanding of the various levels of Islamic code. I've heard of some things being Sunnah, which means that they're not mentioned in the Quran but they were stated by Muhammad. Because of this, they're apparently not mandated but are strongly suggested since the Quran does say to obey the teachings of Muhammad. There are also laws that are fiqh, which are interpretations and rulings. The Quran and Sunnah are immutable whereas the fiqh are interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah to address topics not explicitly covered. An analogy can be made in which the Constitution (if we imagine that there's no possibility of amendments) is like the Quran and Sunnah and the rulings of the Supreme Court are like the fiqh.

I'm not terribly sure what belongs to the different classes or what comprises Sharia. Wikipedia claims that sharia technically consists only of the revealed law, code in the Quran and Sunnah, whereas fiqh does not qualify. However, it also states that in many cases, fiqh is wrongly considered part of sharia law. In the one brief conversation I've had with a Muslim friend, it turned out we were both wrong and confused so I won't hold it against others who also make mistakes.

Anyway, I'm now even less sure what Islam says about different things and into which category the various things I've heard fall. I guess that is just more incentive for me to read and gather my own information rather than relying on other (possibly faulty) sources.

I have more things scribbled down about which to write but it'll have to wait for another day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jesus teaching the Trinity

Recently, I've been fairly busy and so my theological reading has slowed. I have been reading a little bit before bed everynight but I usually can't fight sleep very long. I've restarted the Quran (getting all the way through the Introduction!!!) and continued my rereading of the New Testament. Occasionally during lunch or when I have a few minutes not at home, I'll look up and browse some apocryphal readings, such as the Gospel of Thomas. Due to my lack of progress, I don't have much to say today but I figured I should try to post something just to maintain activity. Thus, today's topic doesn't introduce anything new but goes a little deeper into one particular theme on which I've previously touched.

In reading through the Gospels, there are no references to the Holy Trinit and very few references to the Holy Ghost. Additionally, Jesus always seemed very opposed to people worshiping him and directed all such attempts to God the Father.

The Muslim argument that Jesus would've clarified such a major issue is a very compelling one. Bibles will translate a few Old Testament references as "Holy Spirit," some capitalized and others not but even the NIV and NRSV Bibles have only four and five occurrences, respectively, throughout the entire Old Testament. Even the NRSV Gospels have only 25 occurences of the phrase, only 10 of which are spoken by Jesus, the remainder are mostly narration.

Assuming Israel had been even slightly on the right track, I feel like there would've been some mention of the Trinity or the Holy Spirit or Jesus as part of God. Also, if Israel had been so obviously askew, I feel Jesus would've done much more in his ministry to straighten their way.

Truthfully, I think this is my biggest stumbling block with Christianity. There's nothing particular about Muhammad as a person that is so compelling that pulls me toward Islam. I have no problem with the universe containing mysteries. I accept that there are lots of things that I'll never understand and lots of things that mankind can never understand regardless of technological advancements, improved education, and any amount of time. I do have a hard time, however, believing that God would give us so little information, really only a few vague clues, on such a fundamental aspect of Himself.

Now would be a good time for a well-education Christian theologian to step in and enlighten me on all that I've overlooked as I'm not doing very well stewing in my own doubts with my only input from a Saudi Muslim (:-P just kidding, of course. I'm very appreciative of all comments from anyone.) Maybe I'll try soliciting more readers again and perhaps I'll shoot lower, regular priests and pastors as opposed to seminary professors specializing in world religions.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mohammed versus Jesus

First of all, I noticed that I just spelled Muhammad as Mohammed instead. I've seen both used and I don't know when or why I use one versus the other. I guess I'll just use whichever pops into my head when I'm writing. Such is transliteration.

Although in general, Jesus, Mohammed, and all the prophets teach primarily the same thing, there are a few topics in which their teachings seem to differ greatly. This is especially true of Jesus' teachings as Muhammad's line up fairly well with the Old Testament prophets. This is fine if justified with the "new covenant" argument of Christianity that states that Jesus came bringing a new message of grace and forgiveness, to abolish the old law and establish a new one in which belief in him and living a Christian life are the new requirements for eternal life. However, if one sticks to the Muslim argument that all the prophets' teachings were consistent but were simply modified, Jesus' teachings have to be drastically altered to attain consistency.

Whereas Jesus taught to turn the other cheek when someone strikes you (Luke 6:27-36), Mohammed allowed and even encouraged violence at times. Although Christianity has a long history of violent mission work bringing about forced conversion, that is not a product of Jesus' teachings but, rather, the corruption of power and ethnocentrism resulting from Christianity's dominance in the Western world. The early church spread and grew not through violence but simplly through personal evangelism and the faith and conviction demonstrated through martyrdom.

I suppose the same progression happened with Islam but on a much faster time-scale. Since it happened during the life of Mohammed, it definitely can't be argued that it was a result of corruption of his teachings and Islamic beliefs. It can easily be argued, on the other hand, that Christianity's violent turn was against Christ's teachings.

The warring against unbelievers under the direction of Mohammed does draw definite parallels to Israel's history. The entire book of Joshua in the Old Testament follows Israel's entry into the promised land across the Jordan River after forty years of wandering through the desert. Under Joshua's guidance, they invade city after city, killing almost everyone and claiming the land and its wealth.

I can accept that some corruption of Jesus' message happened but that seems like a major difference. They were in very different situations, Jesus having a small following within Judaism for a short time span as opposed to Mohammed having a large following over a much longer span. However, I can't imagine Jesus would teach only lessons applicable to the immediate situation and ignore the future, growing church.

I'm currently finishing up a collection of ahadith (sayings and teachings of Mohammed that were not part of the divinely given Quran). Most of the teachings are commonsense, habits to help you lead a good life, keep good relations with others, and maintain one's health. Some of them do strike me as somewhat specific to the Arab culture, as I've already mentioned, not having any practical grounding, but most of them would probably be accepted as guidelines for any religion, Eastern or Western, mono- or poly- (or even a-)theistic. There were a few that almost offended me as a Christian; I wish I had marked them of written them down. I feel like most of them have to do with relations with non-Muslims. Whereas Christianity (at least I feel) teaches one to love, honor, and respect everyone regardless of creed, Islam has a very different official position regarding non-believers, especially non-Judeo-Christians.

That strikes me as odd because Islam is not an exclusive religion into which you have to be born. People convert (or revert, in the Islamic lingo) to Islam all the time. Muslims are expected to spread Islam to non-believers. I just don't understand how that's supposed to happen when there is a mandated separation between Muslims and non-Muslims.

I don't experience this in my everday dealings with Muslims. I've always found them to be friendly and accepting of me, even before I had developed even the slightest curiosity about Islam. However, the ahadith teaches that separation from (and even slaughter of) non-believers. I'm sure I'm being a bit harsh. I'll try to pull up a couple examples of the ahadith that bug me.

As promised, prophecies

I've read some of the Old Testament prophets in full and I'm sure I've encountered all of their juciest bits somewhere between church and my own readings. Judaism holds that the prophets foretold of the Messiah, who will come restore the temple in Jerusalem, restore God's chosen people to their seat of glory, and bring about God's will on Earth. Both Christianity and Islam believe that Jesus was the Messiah, whereas Judaism obviously insists that Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies. Islam goes one step farther and believes that the Old Testament prophets fortell of Muhammad, as well (see here.)

Usually, when I read these passages, I don't pick up on anything too intensely prophetic. There are a few places like Isaiah 53 that definitely remind me of Jesus' life. However, usually, the prophetic portions of the Bible read just like the rest. If I read them with my study Bible, I see and understand how everything applies to Jesus and explains the Trinity and supports Christianity. When I read it from sources such as the first link above, I see that the Bible is obviously talking about Muhammad and Judaism and Christianity have both been twisting God's word for centuries. However, when I read them alone, I get that God is great and is worthy of our praise and that we are weak and full of faults but if I were reading the Old Testament without any other background, I don't think I'd flag any parts as prophecies.

It's also very possible that my uninsightful Bible interpretations are just a result of my own academic shortcomings. I've always been very skewed towards the maths and sciences and weaker in the liberal arts. I love reading but apparently I'm a very superficial reader, seeing only the explicitly stated and overlooking any deeper meaning.

Life (from the religious search for truth perspective) would really be so much easier if I had original, untampered sources for all the religious texts. I'm pretty accepting of the Qu'ran's veracity just because of its relative modernity and the intense tradition of memorization from the very beginnings of Islam. However, Christianity's and Judaism's texts are collections from various authors over various periods of time and their history of oral tradition provides plenty of oportunity for modification, whether intentional or not.

I'll finish by returning to a theme from my very first post. Religion is supposed to give peace. Sometimes it definitely does that. Sometimes when I'm experiencing God's wonderful creation and beauty, I'm very grateful and praising. However, whenever I remember my current confusion, religion just depresses me. I don't feel like God has abandoned me but I feel like I suddenly don't know Him anymore. I guess that's to be expected since I'm questioning my fundamental beliefs about God; I guess on some level, I don't know Him. Hopefully I'll find Him again and I'll regain that confidence and certainty of my beliefs, thereby regaining my peace and shaking this religious depression.

By the way, if you're Muslim, Happy Ramadan, if you're Jewish, Happy Rosh Hashanah, and if you're Christian, Happy mid-September!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Culture vs. Religion

I always wonder where the line is drawn between Islam and the Arab (or general Semitic) culture. There seem to be certain elements of Islam that I can't justify as religious or moral but I pass off as influences of Muhammad's culture.

I can understand the importance of the Arabic language since that's the language of the Qu'ran. As long as people are well enough educated that they understand classical Arabic. Also, there seem to be plenty of translations and although the prayers are in Arabic, the equivalent of the sermon is in the local language (at least the one mosque I've visited operates in English.)

There are some little things where I see definite cultural differences. I was raised that you don't wear hats indoors, especially in a place of worship; it's disrespectful. However, I see many men wear the tight, woven hats to Friday prayer, some bring them specifically for the mosque and don't wear them otherwise. Additionally, I've seen a number of guys wearing baseball caps; they always turn them backwards for some reason but they continue to wear them throughout the service.

I can get over the hats; it's not a requirement and I can justify it as a cultural difference. However, the requirement to grow a fist-length beard is a little more of an issue. Obviously, it's a requirement that many Muslim men of all cultures choose to ignore. I seriously don't believe I'm capable of growing such a beard and, at this point, I don't think it's something I'll grow into. Even if I were able, it still seems like a requirement without any logical explanation. The same applies to the prohibition for men to wear gold or silk, although I find it a little easier to accept those as attempts to keep people from blurring the line between male and female.

I'm not belittling Muhammad in any way. I accept that he was a good friend, a great leader, and a humble, God-fearing man. I think it's admirable to follow and base our lives and actions on his life as well as other prophets. However, there's a huge difference between trying to live a good life and being a good person and always eating with your right hand, for instance. In that regard, left-handed people are automatically born with a deficiency, just like me and my lack of beard-growing skills. Obviously eating with your left hand or not having a beard won't keep you from Heaven. Of course, I'm sure Christianity probably has some equally illogical rules that are very culturally based that I just accept because I grew up in a Christian culture.

I'm not really sure what my point is but it's a blog so I'm allowed to ramble. Anyway, I think my next post will be on prophecy as some thoughts regarding that have been stewing in my head recently.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A confession and a plea

Like I've already said, I really wish I had started this long ago when I first began reading and learning and wondering. It would have been nice to have more interaction and discussion earlier on in the process (not that I've received any comments or emails.) However, the thing that this blog did accomplish is that it's been making me think a lot about my beliefs and where exactly I am in this search.

Unfortunately, I think I'm farther along than I originally expected. I'm finding that my gut feeling is leaning in favor of Islam, which doesn't make me particularly happy. Truthfully, I'd much rather be Christian, which is probably why I'm prolonging this as long as possible.

There are many reasons I'd prefer to remain Christian. It would make things much much easier with my family; I fully expect converting to completely screw up my family relations and I wouldn't expect them to ever recover fully. I love how I feel at Christmas and Easter and how I feel anytime I'm just quiet and relaxed in a church; I love that feeling of peace and fulfillment. I'm not saying that I can't get that with Islam also but I don't expect the Muslim holidays to ever be the same. I didn't grow up celebrating them with my family, I don't have years of happy memories associated with them, I didn't grow up hearing the stories as a child, and I doubt any Muslim holiday in America can ever feel quite right, regardless of the Muslim community surrounding me. Also, the one and only mosque I've visited just doesn't have that feeling of extravagance and spirituality that the big, fancy, old churches have. Whenever I want to go pray, I don't go to my church, which is plain and simple, I go to the Catholic chapel because of its decoration, the statues, the stained glass, the paintings and carvings and stone, the incense, everything helps me to feel like I'm truly in God's house; I don't have much experience with mosques but I get the impression that they may have ornate calligraphy and geometric decoration but not the things that typically put me in a spiritual mood. I'm also a very big music guy and I would really miss hymns with organs and choirs. I never did understand why music is such a non-existent part of Islamic worship; there are many musical references throughout the Bible and the Psalms are all songs; Judaism and Christianity both have long musical traditions in worship but it doesn't seem to be a part of Islam at all. I also do like a good pork steak and beer but I could easily give those up; the things that really matter are my relationship with God and my relationship with my family and friends.

However, although those are all definite pros for Christianity, that second-to-last part about "my relationship with God" is the reason I'm finding it hard to remain Christian. I've always had a hard time with the Trinity. I find that whenever I pray, everything's pretty much addressed to God the Father. I'd always recognized Jesus' sacrifice and my resulting forgiveness but God the Father was always the one doing the forgiving. He was the one who blessed me with all I had. In my mind, Jesus was a messenger, a prophet, and a martyr whom I'd just accepted as God's son and part of God. However, I've never really accepted any argument or explanation as to WHY he is one with God. When reading the Gospels, I've never come across anything that convinces me that Jesus was more than a prophet. I don't question his role as the messiah but I don't exactly understand where his divinity originated. Jesus seemed pretty against anyone worshiping him. Most of the New Testament proclamations of Jesus' divinity are located in Paul's epistles. Thus, I feel more like we're following Paul's beliefs and preachings than Jesus'. I feel like Jesus wouldn't have taught such confusion but would have been clear on his teachings. Even after his resurrection, Jesus never states his divinity. I know that some of the early Christian churches before Paul worshiped Jesus as God but I don't understand from whence that notion originates.

Since I'd really much rather remain Christian, I'm asking for persuasion to do so. Please give me an explanation that would allow me to remain Christian without having these doubts that constantly tear at me. None of the reasons I have for remaining Christian are truly religious reasons, they're more reasons of convenience or sentiment.

Since the world's great theological minds haven't accidentally stumbled upon this blog yet, I'm going to go ahead and solicit readers and, hopefully, discussion. I'm going to email religious leaders from a few varied backgrounds in hopes that others can help me through this.

I know there was more that I wanted to write but it's slipped my mind. I'm sure it'll come to me eventually and I'll write it later.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Things I've Read

Even though I've talked to people and visited various churches and the local mosque, reading is by far the best source of information. I've read numerous books and countless websites and I figured I'd list them. A large portion of my readings are on Islam as my Christian upbringing provided me with all the basics of Christianity. Truthfully, until I met some Muslims in college, I knew very little about it. Through exposure to them, I learned about the basic beliefs and practices of Islam, which is what sparked my curiosity and encouraged me to learn more. Anyway, back to my reading list. If anybody ever actually reads this and has suggestions for future readings, please leave a comment. I'm very open to anything regarding either Christianity or Islam.

I think that covers everything in book form that I've read recently wholly or in part. I'm sure I've read other books on Christianity in the past but not as part of my current pursuit.

I fully intend to read more although I'm not sure what I'll read next. Although I don't have any books in mind, I know I'd like to read more about:

Like I said, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm very open to ideas.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More about me

For me, religion had always served its purpose very well. It provided a source of peace, happiness, comfort, and joy. It helped me through tough times and provided an outlet for thanks during happy times. It kept me grounded in many ways, guiding me toward a good way of living and steering me clear of certain disasters.

Now that I've hit this patch of uncertainty in my life, some of that remains but I've also lost some. I still try to live a good life as any religion promotes. However, in my confusion, I've misplaced my joy and comfort. I feel like I'm still a good person but I'm living a life without purpose. I hate not knowing what I believe because I feel like it's the same as not believing anything.

My wandering has turned religion from a spiritual pursuit to a strictly academic one. Until I find God again, I can't find peace. Only then, after I've rediscovered God, can my reading change from seeking religion to seeking guidance and peace. I still pray regularly because God is God, regardless of anything, but they're always slightly tainted with the fact that my vision of God has changed from mysterious in a miraculous, spiritual way to mysterious in a dark, shadowy way. I know He's there but I no longer know anything about him.

I know many people would ask why I'm fretting over this. The unspiritual portion of society would see my doubt and ask why not just ditch religion. Why bother wasting time on something that has been handed down through the generations and has no scientific evidence. Luckily, those among me who are spiritual understand my longing even if they don't share in my uncertainty. Even the most pious person has fleeting doubts about God; whether it's human nature or Satan or modern society, it happens so even they should understand my longing for truth, my yearning for God, and my doubts. Unfortunately, my doubts have just taken a greater hold of me and shaken my beliefs beyond quick repair.

I couldn't stand to live in a world without religion. Some things would definitely be easier; I wouldn't have to bother getting up early on my weekends for church, I could live a looser, freer life without having to worry about morality (although even without morals those behaviors usually carry other consequences,) if everyone believed in the same nothing, there would be no disagreement about what to believe. However, even in my most scientific mode, there must be a God. I can't believe that all of existence is an accident, that life and humanity and art and beauty and love came about as a result of a few random occurrences. Because of God, there is a wonderful universe and through God we have the means to admire it.

One doesn't have to be a Biblical literalist to believe that God created all existence. It is possible to believe in both God and science, regardless of what people might tell you. I'm obviously not an extremist in either sense. I'm neither a religious extremist nor a scientific extremist. I believe that the Big Bang was started and guided by God, I believe that the Earth formed over billions of years under God's supervision, I believe that life was created by God's hand and evolved to it's current state, and I believe that man was created by God with a special spark, a soul that is meant to love each other and to love and worship Him.

I hate that religion is so often depicted as stupid and backwards and I equally hate how religion so often refuses to accept things that are new and different. I especially hate how religion is used as an excuse to perpetrate some of the worst crimes in history. Religion is about guidance and peace and love. There will always be people who disagree, people who are different, but religion teaches love and acceptance. You'll never show people the way or guide them to the truth by killing or enslaving them. Hate only breeds more hate but love will eventually wear cracks in the shell that encrusts people's hearts and will find a place to grow. If you are spreading love, people will accept your love and if you are speaking truth, eventually people will listen.

I feel like I've rambled enough. Hopefully, I'll get into something more meaty next time.

Monday, September 3, 2007


The purpose of this blog is twofold: to tap into the enormous resource of the internet on my search for truth and to document my wandering and questioning for others in my situation.

Here's some background:
I grew up a typical American boy, I'd say. I went to public schools, did my extracurricular activities, had a supportive family, and everything was good. I attended church at a local Protestant church with my family throughout my youth. We were regular Sunday church-goers and participated in some other activities like Sunday school, youth group, and Wednesday night Lenten services but we never were extreme in our participation or fervor.

After going off to college, I continued regularly attending a church in the community. I took place in some campus Bible studies and tried to live according to my beliefs. Now, as a young adult, I'm even more active in my church, serving in leadership positions, organizing, and leading events.

However, at some point in the last few years, I began questioning parts of what I had grown up believing. When reading my study Bible, I find out about the twisted path that has led to the books that have been gathered together and labeled "God's Word." I've visited many churches, both with friends and out of curiosity, and have learned the differences between the various branches of Christianity. The disagreements and disunity within Christianity makes me wonder who and what is right.

And then one day I met and got to know some Muslims. Originally I was curious from an academic standing but I still knew that I was right and they were wrong. However, my continuing exploration of Christianity and increasing doubts led me to question my certainty and take Islam into serious consideration.

I now know a lot more about both Christianity and Islam than I did even a few months ago. I'm still just as confused and uncertain as ever, probably more so. However, my search continues. I intend to document my feelings and my questions here. I hope to receive feedback, answers, comments, suggestions, and even more questions from others.

I don't expect this to be a quick process, nor do I want it to be. I want to make sure that what I conclude in the end is THE TRUTH.

Thus continues my spiritual journey.