Relation of the Concept of Religion to the Point of View of Bernard Lewis

Relation of the Concept of Religion to the Point of View of Bernard Lewis

If we put ourselves back to the early centuries when the first civilizations had existed, or if we put ourselves in every single period of the History, we would notice that not only did people look for a better life in terms of economic and social prosperity, but also they did resort to a specific “mode” of spirituality that we can call religion. Basically, religion consists of a set of rites and beliefs specific to a group. In a concrete way, before the emergence of Christianity stipulating the belief in the doctrines of Trinity: the “father, the son and the holy ghost”, some people tended to be polytheists. In other words, they used to believe in many gods in the same time. It is not surprising that “mecqua” had existed before the advent of Islam. Indeed, Mecqua is known as the holy place of Islam practices; however, we should not neglect the fact that it was served as the “land of polytheism” before the advent of Islam. In reality, mecqua used to gather statues knows as “Alliat”, in which people used to believe in at that time. Hence, we can see that people, whether in the past or the present, demonstrate their degree of faith through diverse practices. The point is that religions “are far from being good friends”. In fact, they have been engaged in long wars since each religion considers itself as the best one as it is the case of Christianity and Islam. Thus, the following paper will relate in depth the concept of religion according to Bernard Lewis point of view as well as the position of each religion vis-à-vis another one.

Although Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheist religions, they are based on different principles and consist of different practices. First of all, according to Bernard Lewis, Judaism is “religion and culture”. Jewish have always lived in Diaspora to join either a Muslim land or Christendom: “Most of Jewish history has taken place within either Christendom or Islam.” As far as Christianity is concerned, since its revelation by Jesus, “the father of Christianity”, many people that were basically Jewish converted to this religion that involves the following belief: “the Father is considered to be God, the son is believed to be Jesus, the God’s son and the Holy Ghost is believed to be angel Michael. Similarly, when Islam emerged, people were taught they must believe in one God: “Allah”. Through a contact with “the supernatural”, prophet Muhammad, sent by God to diffuse Islam, was taught by an angel that Islamic doctrine entails the worship of God ( Allah) and the submission to his will. Obviously, we can see that the common point the three religions share is that they are monotheists. Besides, we should mention that the three believe in what is known as “The Hereafter”, meaning that there is a life after death that would lead people ultimately to either hell or heaven, according to their acts.

As a second fact, it is essential to raise the idea that both Islam and Christianity have been engaged in long wars. In fact, the differences in terms of the way both religions were revealed to people had created tensions between Christianity and Islam. According to Bernard Lewis, both Christianity and Islam believe strongly that their “religious flag” is the best and is worthier than any other one. When Christianity emerged, Christians deemed that their religion came to complete the previous one: Judaism. Similarly, when the world gave birth to Islam, Muslims were convinced that Islam is definitely the ultimate and the comprehensive religion that came to complete both Judaism and Christianity: “But it is a problem for Christians and Muslims- or perhaps I should say for traditional Christians and Muslims. From their perspective, a previous religion may be regarded as incomplete, as superseded, but it is not necessarily false if it come in the proper sequence of revelation. “Judaism and Christianity were both true religions at the time of their revelation, but they were superseded by the final and complete revelation of Islam”. Undeniably, this religion clash that we can assimilate to a “clash of civilizations” stipulates that no religion is valid except the one concerned: “For some religions, just as “civilization” means us, and the rest are barbarians, so “religion” means ours, and the rest are infidels”.

Some sociologists of the twentieth century would analyze religion from a different perspective. For instance, Karl Marx believes that religion is the” opium of people ". In other words, he considers Religion as a drug or a form of consolation that encourages people to forget about their worries, problems and reduce their degree of anxiety. Additionally, Marx said that religion is not a way that could help people solving their problems. He believed that religion weakens people and prompts them to work hard so that “they can expiate their original sins”. Also, Marx claimed that religion is the main component that justifies the social hierarchy, the monarchy by the divine right and he totally believed that religion implies submission.

From my point of view, I believe that each religion has its own history and background. In other words, there is no religion better than the other. Each religion emerged for an interval of time in the history, in a specific context. As a Muslim, I cherish my religion and I would never think about being converted to another one. Why? Merely because I am part of a Muslim society that taught me since my birth how to embrace Islam and how to inculcate it to the future generations (children). Above and beyond, we should be able to solve the following equation: if we admit that each religion has its own history and that each one of us is free to embrace the religion of his choice, then this famous “ iron curtain” between religions would fade away to give birth to tolerance! Ultimately, this is what our world needs: an open-minded view that would prompt people to interact safely and live in symbiosis, no matter whether they are Jews, Christians or Muslims!

To conclude, the debate about religion has aroused important questions that have not been answered yet. In their pure state, religions are regarded as the most significant “educators” in life. Indeed, they teach people how to embrace as much virtues as possible. To say, religions are on the same mind and on the same length of the wave. They concur with each other on the general ethics and they do all refute evil!