Robert Spencer Insists Muslims Worship a Different, Pagan God; A Case Study in Spencer’s Paper Thin Arguments

I just published an article series entitled The “Allah is the Moon-God” Nonsense Could be the Stupidest Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theory Yet (see pages I, II, III, IV, and V).  This ridiculously absurd theory is promoted by such clowns as Robert Morey and Yoel Natan.

But lest we think that Robert Spencer, the self-declared “acclaimed scholar of Islam,” is above such silliness, we’d be quickly disabused of such a notion.  Indeed, Spencer toys with the “Allah is a pagan God” idea in a post entitled “Is Allah God?” He first quotes Daniel Pipes (another veritable Islamophobe) who says:

Islam views Judaism and Christianity as flawed versions of itself, correct on essentials but wrong in important details. This outlook implies that all three faiths share the God of Abraham.

Spencer is unsatisfied with this, and says: “Yes they do – in a sense.” They only worship the same God in a sense. Spencer then claims:

Muslims themselves vehemently deny that the Allah of the Qur’an is the God of the Bible.

This is a completely false claim.  Muslims have always claimed that they worship the same God as the God of the Bible.  They believe in the God of Israel, whom the Jews believe in, and whom the Christians refer to as the Father.  The Quran itself says:

Do not argue with the People of the Book [the Jews and Christians] except in the kindest possible manner, save those of them who are oppressive, and say: “We believe in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to you; our God and your God are one and the same, and to Him do we submit ourselves.” (Quran, 29:46)

Spencer’s argument, however, revolves around the fact that Muslims don’t believe in the Trinity or in the divinity of Jesus:

However, Muslims themselves vehemently deny that the Allah of the Qur’an is the God of the Bible. Not only is the Trinity, which is accepted by almost all Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox groups (with the exception of a few marginal groups and self-anointed experts) blasphemous to Muslims; referring to God as “Father” is for them blasphemous as well. Even to say such a thing puts one at risk of Hell.

And:

No Muslim, therefore, would say he worships the Triune God of Christianity, which the Qur’an rather inaccurately denigrates as worship of God, Jesus, and Mary (5:116). Hardly a promising ground for mutual understanding.

Aha!, you see, Muslims don’t really believe in the same God as us! Spencer, in his zealous attempt to cast out Muslims as “pagans” stupidly shoots himself in the foot.  Guess what, Mr. Spencer?  Jews don’t believe in the Trinity, the Triune God of Christianity, or the divinity of Jesus either.  So this means, according to Spencer’s brilliant logic, that Jews also don’t worship the same God as the Jews and Christians do.  Most Jews I’ve met are pretty convinced that they worship the same God as the God of the Jews.

Since the Old Testament doesn’t mention the Trinity anywhere in it (barring fantastic attempts by Christians to superimpose it into various verses) and certainly Jews reject the concept altogether, and by Spencer’s own logic this means that Jews and Christians worship different gods, then in that case we could say that the Christians don’t worship the same God as Jews do.  In this manner, Jews and Muslims worship the same God, whereas Christianity–not Islam–is the odd one out.

Historically, Jewish religious authorities permitted Jews to enter mosques but not churches.  (Refer to p.133 of Prof. Reuven Firestone’s book Children of Abraham.)  The Jews considered Islamic worship to be monotheistic, whereas the Christian church was seen as a place of polytheism (three gods instead of one).  The Christian images of Jesus were deemed idolatrous, whereas no such impediment was present in mosques.  If then Robert Spencer desires to cast out Islam as the pagan faith, then it seems it would be very easy to turn this around on Christianity, especially his own Catholicism which abounds in religious imagery and iconography.

It is often argued that there can be some level of mutual understanding between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam based on the fact that they all worship the same God.  Spencer can’t tolerate the idea of “mutual understanding” with Islam, and therefore argues that there is “hardly a promising ground for mutual understanding” since Muslims reject the Trinity as blasphemy.  Well, so too do Jews regard the Trinity as blasphemous.  In fact, in Spencer’s own Bible it says that the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for this blasphemy:

John 10:31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him,

10:32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

10:33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Certainly, Jews continue to consider the Trinity to be blasphemous: Rabbi Shraga Simmons says, “In Jewish law, worship of a three-part god is considered idolatry” and the Jewish Encyclopedia concludes that the concept of Trinity is born out of “the paganistic tendency of the Church.”  Wouldn’t this also “hardly [be] a promising ground for mutual understanding?”  Time and time again, we’ve seen Spencer et al.’s double standards with regard to Islam.

Even though Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe God to have slightly differing qualities, they all worship the same God.  Evangelical or Catholic Christians cannot reasonably argue otherwise because doing so would mean accepting the idea that Jews and Christians worship two different Gods.  In other words, the three faiths may differ in their basic conception and understanding of God, but this doesn’t mean they worship a different God altogether.  After all, even within Christianity there exist multiple conceptions and understandings of God that differ from one another.  (I will argue in my next article that the Jewish and Christian conception and understanding of God is no more desirable than the Islamic one.)

Lastly, it would be worthwhile to note that Robert Morey, the clown who furthered the “Allah is the Moon-God” theory, uses the exact same argument as Spencer, saying:

Islam and Christianity do not worship the same God. The Christian worships the Holy Trinity while the Muslim worships a unitarian deity.

Despite his attempts to pass off as a “serious scholar of Islam,” Robert Spencer is nothing more than a Christian apologist like Robert Morey.

*  *  *  *  *

Robert Spencer then whines that Islam’s view towards Judaism and Christianity is intolerant because it views “Judaism along with Christianity as a renegade perversion of Islam, which is based on the idea that the Bible as we have it has been corrupted.”  He says:

In light of that, it is no small thing that, as Pipes notes, “Islam views Judaism and Christianity as flawed versions of itself, correct on essentials but wrong in important details.” I think unfortunately that this makes it unlikely that some path to mutual coexistence can be based on the fact that “all three faiths share the God of Abraham.” They do, but Islam views the other two not as equal or even potential partners, but as renegade perversions of the true faith of the God of Abraham.

The childish arguments raised by Spencer are indicative of his complete lack of sophistication of thought.  Here again, we must wonder if Robert Spencer had the capacity to think out his argument before opening his mouth.  Christianity views Judaism and certainly Islam as “flawed perversions.”  So too does Judaism regard Christianity and Islam as such.

Islam at least views the other two faiths as “correct on essentials but wrong in important details.”  Muslims believe in the Jewish and Christian prophets, and they even believe that the Bible is a divine book (although they believe over time it has lost its textual integrity).  Meanwhile, Jews reject Jesus altogether, some even going so far as to believe he was a fraud, charlatan, and fake prophet.  Certainly, Jews believe this of Muhammad!

Likewise, Jews regard the New Testament and the Quran as worse than just being tampered with: these holy books are considered wholly bogus, at least in the sense of divine inspiration.  In a similar vein, Christians don’t just think that Muhammad was “not a prophet” but they think of him as a fraud, charlatan, and fake prophet.  This is, after all, what Robert Spencer himself thinks.  He authored a book with the title The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion.  Christians regard the Quran not as a divine book that was simply tampered with, but rather as a wholesale forgery.  If Muslims are to be chastised for believing the Bible has lost its textual purity, shouldn’t Christians be chastised for believing the Quran to be entirely bogus?

Spencer wonders:

In light of the Qur’anic verses I have referred to here and others, I wonder if it would really be possible for Qur’an-believing Muslims to “recognize the validity of alternate approaches to the one God” – specifically approaches that are condemned as perversions of the true faith in the same Qur’an.

While Spencer wonders, we too wonder: will Christians “recognize the validity of alternate approaches to the one God?”  Jesus says in the Bible that “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), which Christians use to claim that there is no alternate approach to the one God except through Jesus: as the popular Evangelical website GotQuestions.org says, “Jesus is the only way of salvation.”  In fact, even those people who don’t believe in Jesus because they have never heard of him will burn in Hell.  And yep, Jews will burn in Hell too.  But God damn it, when will those Muslims ever tolerate other approaches to the one God?

In terms of religious exclusivity, Christianity can be understood to be more exclusive (intolerant?) than either Judaism or Islam (more on various Islamic views towards salvific exclusivity in a later article).  While exceptions exist (the importance of which ought not be dismissed), it can certainly be said that Christians in general are at least as strict–if not more so–as Muslims on the need to convert to be “saved” from Hell.  In Robert Spencer’s own Catholicism, there was and still is a question of whether or not non-Catholic Christians are automatically damned or not, let alone your run-of-the-mill infidel.  So why focus on Islam?

What perfectly encapsulates Robert Spencer’s complete obliviousness to his own amazing double-standards is his conclusion, in which he asks:

Will this change as Muslims come to recognize that we are all children of Abraham with a common God? I hope so.

This, even while he himself denies that Muslims truly worship “a common God” as Jews and Christians–something that he argues in the very same article no less!  Spencer argues: (1) Muslims worship a different God than Jews and Christians; (2) If only Muslims weren’t so supremacist and rejected the fact that we all worship the same God! Another case of right-wing projection.

*  *  *  *  *

Robert Spencer’s article Is Allah God? serves as a good case study of Spencer’s paper thin arguments.  Will he actually defend his ideas or just continue to crow in victory over his debates with bumbling, cherry-picked opponents and puff out his chest because Muslim or liberal figures are supposedly too cowardly to debate him? Why is it that Robert Spencer prides himself in never backing down from a good debate, but at the same time refuses to debate the one person who keeps on refuting him?

*  *  *  *  *

Some people have wondered: why is it important to clarify that Muslims worship the same God that of the Jews and Christians?  What’s wrong with saying that the Islamic God is pagan?  What’s wrong with paganism?  As one reader put it: the Wiccans worship the moon-god; this doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that they have less rights.

While this is most certainly true–and while I am hesitant to engage in such discussions for fear of legitimizing the demonization of pagan faiths (something that has been a major problem in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition)–it should be noted that Wiccans themselves say they worship the moon-god and have no problem with it.  Meanwhile, Muslims do not say they worship the moon-god, and therefore attributing it to them is purposefully insulting; the anti-Muslim Evangelicals who say “Allah is the moon-god” intentionally want to denigrate Islam by saying such.

More importantly, casting out Islam’s deity as the pagan, non-Abrahamic moon-god is yet another means employed by the anti-Muslim camp to Other-ize Muslims.  They are so totally absolutely, totally different than us that they can’t possibly worship the same God as us.  This Other-ization is the first step leading to demonization, which becomes especially acute when this other, strange pagan God is charecterized as a a god of war and violence.

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