Category: James Arlandson

The Happy, Harmless Quran


Really?

But we can skip over his first three chapters on the three kinds of ignorance mentioned above. It seems no challenge can be rational, by definition, since peace and good will dominate the Quran, and it is actually misunderstood by the ignorant. The rest of his book is intended to correct the hysterics.

Instead, let’s analyze chapter 7 on peace, chapter 8 on jihad, chapter 9 on shariah, and chapters 11-13 on women’s issues.

Chapter 7

Apparently the Quran extols an almost global family of believing Jews, Christians, and Muslims, living in harmony and tolerance. Great for Western utopians, as leftists tend to be.

However, he neglects to mention Muhammad’s atrocities against the Jews, when he ordered 900 men and pubescent boys to be slaughtered and the women and girls to be enslaved, after he conquered them outside Medina, which the Quran approves of (33:26-27). Was the atrocity a one-off? Islamic history says Jews and Christians suffered death and persecution and second-class treatment, as Muslims waged aggressive and unprovoked jihad for centuries. (See chapter 8, next).

The Quran calls Jews “apes and pigs” (7:166, 2:65, and 5:60). One could place those verses in their historical context to soften the extreme rhetoric, but for centuries now they have opened the door to deep prejudice.

As for apostasy, he casually brushes aside its punishment by equating biblical Christianity with quranic Islam, not mentioning the fact that the first generations of Christians never executed anyone for leaving the faith (nor does the New Testament order this), while Muhammad and his earliest caliphs certainly did, on the authority of the Quran and his example.

Chapter 8

As for jihad, it is clear that he does not understand the chronology of the Medinan chapters, for he repeats this tiresome stock misinterpretation: “The Quran never advocates war as a means of religious conversion, since ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (2:256)” (p. 132). However, that verse was written when Muhammad first arrived in Medina and was weak. But as soon as he grew in military might, he compelled all sorts of people to convert or die (polytheists), or convert or die or pay a second-class citizen tax (Christians and Jews) in 9:29. (A prejudicial tax based on religion does not even squeak by as tolerant, one more contradiction of his utopian chapter 7.)

Further, he omits an adequate discussion of qital, which exclusively means war, slaughter, and killing. In light of that, his long analysis of 2:191-94 (an early Medinan passage) overlooks one key clause about fighting for the Kabah shrine back in Mecca: “Fight [qital] until… worship is devoted to God.” Clearly Muhammad says here that he would never let the Meccans rest until he made it a place devoted (only) to Allah. And in fact that is what he did from 623 until 630, when he finally conquered Mecca with 10,000 jihadists and kicked out or killed the unclean polytheists (9:28).

The most egregious oversight in his book, as noted, is the missing analysis of Quran 9:29, which is an open-ended call to qital inside and outside of Arabia. Ever since Islam’s prophet marched north with 20,000 jihadists to Tabuk in late 630 to fight the Byzantines, who never showed up, Muslims have been waging the same aggressive jihad/qital for over 460 years before the pope called the first crusade. Wills should know this; instead he seems to assume that Muslims peacefully acquired the lands they now hold, and the crusaders unjustly picked on them. Yet 9:29, reflecting the Tabuk jihad, set the institutional genetic code from then until now.

Chapter 9

This chapter on shariah is better because he discusses the harsh punishments in the Quran, but the Old Testament is worse, he is quick to point out to justify the Quran, an ineffective, distracting ploy.

Further, he is wrong to believe that only the Islamic State imposed them. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, for example, have done so and still do. Various websites like Amnesty International and Jihad Watch (which Wills sniffs at) keep track of them.

And no, it is not wise to allow any part of shariah into our legal system. Numerous harmless religious laws, like washing or praying five times a day, are irrelevant to the law, except to protect these practices. But the Quran’s punishments and domestic and commercial laws, for example, are out of date and must not be allowed in the West (or anywhere else).

Chapters 11-13

His three chapters on women’s issues are actually very solid in most places, like divorce and the few verses that respect womankind. Maybe the Muslim feminists whom he lists can indeed make something of those positive verses. However, the problem is not the abstract positive verses, but the concrete oppressive ones.

His discussion on wife beating, for example, is thorough, except his odd comment about a husband using a tooth stick to strike his wife. “I think a modern Muslim who threatened his wife with a toothbrush might become guilty of killing her — with laughter” (p. 189). In the seventh century tooth sticks could be long and inflict injury. And why be so cavalier about a husband raising his hand against his wife, at all?

Many traditions indeed report through Aisha herself that she was betrothed to Muhammad at six and the “wedding” was consummated at nine, immediately afterwards. So Wills is wrong to plead ignorance about her age at consummation (p. 186, note 3). Unsurprisingly, he does not bring up 65:4, which assumes prepubescent girls are fair game.

To wrap up, since Wills takes many shots at the Bible, as Western scholars delight to do (though none or hardly any shots at the Quran), here is a thought experiment: If everyone on the planet were to follow the teachings of the four Gospels and epistles to their fullest, the world would be much better off, such as no more wars, no legal mutilations, love for womankind and humanity generally, and a lot of grace.

Following the Quran to its fullest would produce these results, to name a few: too many bruises and not enough equal legal rights for womankind; no religious freedom to critique Islam and Muhammad; no grace (a missing doctrine in the legalistic Quran); legal floggings and mutilations; jihad/qital might not cease (Muslims still wage war on Muslims).

Rather, Wills reassures us that the troublesome verses in the Quran are simply misunderstood and just fine as they are or maybe after minor interpretational adjustments.

But we are not the ones who are ignorant of what it really says. The fault lies not in our “confusion,” but in the Quran itself, whose extreme verses are clear enough.

Ironically, too often he is the one who seems ignorant of unfavorable evidence in the Quran, so his short book comes across mostly as a condescending and shallow exercise in special pleading and unfounded puffing.

No need to buy his book.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted Thirty shariah laws, Ten shariah laws that oppress women.

What’s all the fuss about? If only we threw off our secular ignorance, religious ignorance and fearful ignorance, then we could interpret the Quran wisely and rationally; then we could reach this conclusion: “The religion of the Quran is a religion of peace.”

So says Garry Wills on p. 140 in his book What the Quran Meant: And Why It Matters.

Really?

But we can skip over his first three chapters on the three kinds of ignorance mentioned above. It seems no challenge can be rational, by definition, since peace and good will dominate the Quran, and it is actually misunderstood by the ignorant. The rest of his book is intended to correct the hysterics.

Instead, let’s analyze chapter 7 on peace, chapter 8 on jihad, chapter 9 on shariah, and chapters 11-13 on women’s issues.

Chapter 7

Apparently the Quran extols an almost global family of believing Jews, Christians, and Muslims, living in harmony and tolerance. Great for Western utopians, as leftists tend to be.

However, he neglects to mention Muhammad’s atrocities against the Jews, when he ordered 900 men and pubescent boys to be slaughtered and the women and girls to be enslaved, after he conquered them outside Medina, which the Quran approves of (33:26-27). Was the atrocity a one-off? Islamic history says Jews and Christians suffered death and persecution and second-class treatment, as Muslims waged aggressive and unprovoked jihad for centuries. (See chapter 8, next).

The Quran calls Jews “apes and pigs” (7:166, 2:65, and 5:60). One could place those verses in their historical context to soften the extreme rhetoric, but for centuries now they have opened the door to deep prejudice.

As for apostasy, he casually brushes aside its punishment by equating biblical Christianity with quranic Islam, not mentioning the fact that the first generations of Christians never executed anyone for leaving the faith (nor does the New Testament order this), while Muhammad and his earliest caliphs certainly did, on the authority of the Quran and his example.

Chapter 8

As for jihad, it is clear that he does not understand the chronology of the Medinan chapters, for he repeats this tiresome stock misinterpretation: “The Quran never advocates war as a means of religious conversion, since ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (2:256)” (p. 132). However, that verse was written when Muhammad first arrived in Medina and was weak. But as soon as he grew in military might, he compelled all sorts of people to convert or die (polytheists), or convert or die or pay a second-class citizen tax (Christians and Jews) in 9:29. (A prejudicial tax based on religion does not even squeak by as tolerant, one more contradiction of his utopian chapter 7.)

Further, he omits an adequate discussion of qital, which exclusively means war, slaughter, and killing. In light of that, his long analysis of 2:191-94 (an early Medinan passage) overlooks one key clause about fighting for the Kabah shrine back in Mecca: “Fight [qital] until… worship is devoted to God.” Clearly Muhammad says here that he would never let the Meccans rest until he made it a place devoted (only) to Allah. And in fact that is what he did from 623 until 630, when he finally conquered Mecca with 10,000 jihadists and kicked out or killed the unclean polytheists (9:28).

The most egregious oversight in his book, as noted, is the missing analysis of Quran 9:29, which is an open-ended call to qital inside and outside of Arabia. Ever since Islam’s prophet marched north with 20,000 jihadists to Tabuk in late 630 to fight the Byzantines, who never showed up, Muslims have been waging the same aggressive jihad/qital for over 460 years before the pope called the first crusade. Wills should know this; instead he seems to assume that Muslims peacefully acquired the lands they now hold, and the crusaders unjustly picked on them. Yet 9:29, reflecting the Tabuk jihad, set the institutional genetic code from then until now.

Chapter 9

This chapter on shariah is better because he discusses the harsh punishments in the Quran, but the Old Testament is worse, he is quick to point out to justify the Quran, an ineffective, distracting ploy.

Further, he is wrong to believe that only the Islamic State imposed them. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, for example, have done so and still do. Various websites like Amnesty International and Jihad Watch (which Wills sniffs at) keep track of them.

And no, it is not wise to allow any part of shariah into our legal system. Numerous harmless religious laws, like washing or praying five times a day, are irrelevant to the law, except to protect these practices. But the Quran’s punishments and domestic and commercial laws, for example, are out of date and must not be allowed in the West (or anywhere else).

Chapters 11-13

His three chapters on women’s issues are actually very solid in most places, like divorce and the few verses that respect womankind. Maybe the Muslim feminists whom he lists can indeed make something of those positive verses. However, the problem is not the abstract positive verses, but the concrete oppressive ones.

His discussion on wife beating, for example, is thorough, except his odd comment about a husband using a tooth stick to strike his wife. “I think a modern Muslim who threatened his wife with a toothbrush might become guilty of killing her — with laughter” (p. 189). In the seventh century tooth sticks could be long and inflict injury. And why be so cavalier about a husband raising his hand against his wife, at all?

Many traditions indeed report through Aisha herself that she was betrothed to Muhammad at six and the “wedding” was consummated at nine, immediately afterwards. So Wills is wrong to plead ignorance about her age at consummation (p. 186, note 3). Unsurprisingly, he does not bring up 65:4, which assumes prepubescent girls are fair game.

To wrap up, since Wills takes many shots at the Bible, as Western scholars delight to do (though none or hardly any shots at the Quran), here is a thought experiment: If everyone on the planet were to follow the teachings of the four Gospels and epistles to their fullest, the world would be much better off, such as no more wars, no legal mutilations, love for womankind and humanity generally, and a lot of grace.

Following the Quran to its fullest would produce these results, to name a few: too many bruises and not enough equal legal rights for womankind; no religious freedom to critique Islam and Muhammad; no grace (a missing doctrine in the legalistic Quran); legal floggings and mutilations; jihad/qital might not cease (Muslims still wage war on Muslims).

Rather, Wills reassures us that the troublesome verses in the Quran are simply misunderstood and just fine as they are or maybe after minor interpretational adjustments.

But we are not the ones who are ignorant of what it really says. The fault lies not in our “confusion,” but in the Quran itself, whose extreme verses are clear enough.

Ironically, too often he is the one who seems ignorant of unfavorable evidence in the Quran, so his short book comes across mostly as a condescending and shallow exercise in special pleading and unfounded puffing.

No need to buy his book.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted Thirty shariah laws, Ten shariah laws that oppress women.



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Positive Lessons from Indentured Servants in Colonial America


Though abuse of indentured servants did happen, America was a land of opportunity.  The vast majority of them moved up the social scale to become landowners and artisans in their own right.

An indentured servant signed a contract (or indenture) to serve his master or mistress for a certain number of years.  When the service was expired, he got clothing and some money.  Servant had rights, as the following sample evidence will show, beginning with Virginia and then Pennsylvania.

With 32 other people, Samuel Wilbourn landed in Westmoreland County, Virginia, bordering the Atlantic (where, incidentally, George Washington’s ancestors arrived a little later) by October 5, 1654.  He was poor because he left no other record, and this indicates that he was an indentured servant.  (We should not expect these importation records to announce indentured servants.)

Was Samuel a success even on a small scale?  We can conjecture that he got married, because his (probable) son appears in the same county just 25 years later as a full adult (slightly edited):  “December 17, 1679: Rob. Hewitt v. John Wilbourn. Non-suited, not prosecuting his action, 50 pounds of tobacco.”  (Yes, tobacco was the currency, since earliest Virginia didn’t mint coins, so don’t break out the cudgels, because they grew other crops.)  There is no record of John coming to this or any county by ship.  And it was rare, if it happened at all, for a male indentured servant to marry, because women were so few and could pick whomever they pleased in early Virginia.  He had to show he could make it by owning land or applying a trade.  Therefore, Samuel was a success on his own and through his son John.

Indentured servants learned trades, like farming, carpentry, and bricklaying, which benefited them personally and colonial society.  In 1701, members of St. Peter’s parish, New Kent County, Virginia, intended to build a brick church (probably where George Washington got married, in 1759).  According to parish records, church wardens had to supply three laborers to help the experienced bricklayers.  The wardens could supply them only if they controlled them.  The terms of the contract also spell out that the laborers must have “diet, washing, and lodging” for six months.  Whether those three laborers were free or indentured to the wardens, the terms look a lot like an indenture.

It is alleged that toddlers were taken from England and brought over to America.  Regardless of the exact numbers, it is not difficult to decipher the backstory.  Church wardens handled cases of “bastardy” and orphans or extreme cases of poverty in which the mother gave up her child.  In Virginia, church records are filled with stories like this one.  In St. Peter’s parish, in 1686, Mary Wilkinson was to get payment in tobacco “for nursing a bastard child belonging to a servant woman of Capt. Joseph Forester this ensuing year.”  Though not conforming to our standards, mothers who had children out of wedlock were considered unfit in many (though not all) cases.  But the church took care of them, and often the wardens did not rip the babies from their mothers’ hands, though this did happen at times, sadly.

Sometimes a girl or boy was infirm, and the church folk took care of her or him.  In the same parish record, 1728, we read: “Agnes Tudor, a poor inform girl, being put upon this parish for a charge, and Richard and Sarah Brooks being willing to take the said girl, ordered [by the vestry] that the church wardens bind the said Agnes Tudor to the said Richard and Sarah Brooks for seven years.”  Thus, Agnes got a new contract or indenture for whatever slight labor her handicap allowed her to provide around the house.  It looks as though it would cost the Brookses more money to maintain her than they could earn from her labor.  Sacrifice and kindness.

Let’s head up to Pennsylvania.

Margaret Pearson had gumption.  She knew her rights.  Chester County court records for December 1684 say “she complained against her master John Colbert for his ill usage and beating her contrary to law; ordered [by the court] that she be disposed of for seven pounds.”  Colbert broke the contract.  A month later, the court ordered Randolph Vernon and Robert Eyre, clerk, to look for a suitable master for Margaret.  So it was “contrary to law” for a master to abuse his servant.  She could seek from the court a way out of her indenture and look for a new one with another family willing to buy out the first contract.

Human nature the world over can go astray.  A man was not permitted to have sex with a servant girl, whether his own or someone else’s.  In May 1686, the Minutes of the Provincial Council state that councilman Luke Watson was accused of fornicating with his brother-in-law’s servant, and he was asked to give an account.

The board ordered Luke Watson to be called and told him that he was accused of having carnal knowledge of this brother-in-law’s woman servant and further that he then stood bound to the peace for misdemeanors and therefore until he appeared in law innocent of those great offenses he was accused of, they could not admit him to sit amongst them, upon which he went forth.

For this sexual misconduct and other misdemeanors, it took several years for Watson to be readmitted to the council, so he experienced redemption in the end.  (No word on whether Mrs. Watson gave him redemption.)

Worst of all, human nature can go to extremes.  A master, Henry Reynolds (a distant uncle-in-law), was accused of killing his servant Mary King by hitting her with a broomstick.  A short time later, she died.  In April 1685, the case went to court, and witnesses were called.  Reynolds’s mother-in-law, Prudence Clayton, testified that she was called to dress the body but could find no wound.  Apparently, the jury could not reach the conclusion that the hit was the final cause of death, and the jury may have even doubted that Reynolds had hit her.  Nonetheless, servants could be abused, but the abuser could get punished by law if found guilty.  Servants had rights according to their indenture.

We can draw these conclusions.

These cases (except, hopefully, Mary King’s killing) could be multiplied by the thousands across the colonial eastern seaboard.  If modern historians don’t dig into social history and specific cases instead of making vast generalizations, they can draw the lopsided conclusion that America was completely oppressive.

The majority of indentured servants in the New World lived better lives than they did in the Old World, regardless of the decade.  Figuring they had nothing to lose and much to gain, a huge number volunteered to sign the indenture or contract and came over to the New World on a new adventure, pursuing a new life.  They were not always rounded up.

The masters and the servants got along just fine in the huge majority of cases.  But if a master became abusive, the servant could take his case to court.  Then the judges could find a new arrangement.

When toddlers were taken to the New World, surely church folks were very eager to shelter them.  They might have even found childless couples.  

Indentured servants were not “slaves.”  That insults blacks, who really were slaves and rarely acquired their freedom.  Instead, white servants, though under a binding contract, were somewhat like free apprentices.  Servants learned a trade.  Then they worked and aged out of servitude and acquired land for cheap or kept up their craft.

On the whole, they did not live miserable lives, and America was not uniquely evil for continuing this imperfect economic contract system.

Though not utopia, because human nature has “issues,” colonial Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the rest of America were great places to start a new life.  The vast majority of indentured immigrants followed the track to prosperity and freedom.

Millions of their descendants (like me) are living proof today.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted A Few Observations on Martin Luther and America’s First “Sherlock Holmes,” a case of a thieving indentured servant.

It is commonplace that the left take out cudgels and bash nearly everything about America, and the seventeenth century is for them a rich target.  For them, it is not America the Beautiful (different from America the Perfect), but America the Suckiful.

But she was not a bad place back then.

Though abuse of indentured servants did happen, America was a land of opportunity.  The vast majority of them moved up the social scale to become landowners and artisans in their own right.

An indentured servant signed a contract (or indenture) to serve his master or mistress for a certain number of years.  When the service was expired, he got clothing and some money.  Servant had rights, as the following sample evidence will show, beginning with Virginia and then Pennsylvania.

With 32 other people, Samuel Wilbourn landed in Westmoreland County, Virginia, bordering the Atlantic (where, incidentally, George Washington’s ancestors arrived a little later) by October 5, 1654.  He was poor because he left no other record, and this indicates that he was an indentured servant.  (We should not expect these importation records to announce indentured servants.)

Was Samuel a success even on a small scale?  We can conjecture that he got married, because his (probable) son appears in the same county just 25 years later as a full adult (slightly edited):  “December 17, 1679: Rob. Hewitt v. John Wilbourn. Non-suited, not prosecuting his action, 50 pounds of tobacco.”  (Yes, tobacco was the currency, since earliest Virginia didn’t mint coins, so don’t break out the cudgels, because they grew other crops.)  There is no record of John coming to this or any county by ship.  And it was rare, if it happened at all, for a male indentured servant to marry, because women were so few and could pick whomever they pleased in early Virginia.  He had to show he could make it by owning land or applying a trade.  Therefore, Samuel was a success on his own and through his son John.

Indentured servants learned trades, like farming, carpentry, and bricklaying, which benefited them personally and colonial society.  In 1701, members of St. Peter’s parish, New Kent County, Virginia, intended to build a brick church (probably where George Washington got married, in 1759).  According to parish records, church wardens had to supply three laborers to help the experienced bricklayers.  The wardens could supply them only if they controlled them.  The terms of the contract also spell out that the laborers must have “diet, washing, and lodging” for six months.  Whether those three laborers were free or indentured to the wardens, the terms look a lot like an indenture.

It is alleged that toddlers were taken from England and brought over to America.  Regardless of the exact numbers, it is not difficult to decipher the backstory.  Church wardens handled cases of “bastardy” and orphans or extreme cases of poverty in which the mother gave up her child.  In Virginia, church records are filled with stories like this one.  In St. Peter’s parish, in 1686, Mary Wilkinson was to get payment in tobacco “for nursing a bastard child belonging to a servant woman of Capt. Joseph Forester this ensuing year.”  Though not conforming to our standards, mothers who had children out of wedlock were considered unfit in many (though not all) cases.  But the church took care of them, and often the wardens did not rip the babies from their mothers’ hands, though this did happen at times, sadly.

Sometimes a girl or boy was infirm, and the church folk took care of her or him.  In the same parish record, 1728, we read: “Agnes Tudor, a poor inform girl, being put upon this parish for a charge, and Richard and Sarah Brooks being willing to take the said girl, ordered [by the vestry] that the church wardens bind the said Agnes Tudor to the said Richard and Sarah Brooks for seven years.”  Thus, Agnes got a new contract or indenture for whatever slight labor her handicap allowed her to provide around the house.  It looks as though it would cost the Brookses more money to maintain her than they could earn from her labor.  Sacrifice and kindness.

Let’s head up to Pennsylvania.

Margaret Pearson had gumption.  She knew her rights.  Chester County court records for December 1684 say “she complained against her master John Colbert for his ill usage and beating her contrary to law; ordered [by the court] that she be disposed of for seven pounds.”  Colbert broke the contract.  A month later, the court ordered Randolph Vernon and Robert Eyre, clerk, to look for a suitable master for Margaret.  So it was “contrary to law” for a master to abuse his servant.  She could seek from the court a way out of her indenture and look for a new one with another family willing to buy out the first contract.

Human nature the world over can go astray.  A man was not permitted to have sex with a servant girl, whether his own or someone else’s.  In May 1686, the Minutes of the Provincial Council state that councilman Luke Watson was accused of fornicating with his brother-in-law’s servant, and he was asked to give an account.

The board ordered Luke Watson to be called and told him that he was accused of having carnal knowledge of this brother-in-law’s woman servant and further that he then stood bound to the peace for misdemeanors and therefore until he appeared in law innocent of those great offenses he was accused of, they could not admit him to sit amongst them, upon which he went forth.

For this sexual misconduct and other misdemeanors, it took several years for Watson to be readmitted to the council, so he experienced redemption in the end.  (No word on whether Mrs. Watson gave him redemption.)

Worst of all, human nature can go to extremes.  A master, Henry Reynolds (a distant uncle-in-law), was accused of killing his servant Mary King by hitting her with a broomstick.  A short time later, she died.  In April 1685, the case went to court, and witnesses were called.  Reynolds’s mother-in-law, Prudence Clayton, testified that she was called to dress the body but could find no wound.  Apparently, the jury could not reach the conclusion that the hit was the final cause of death, and the jury may have even doubted that Reynolds had hit her.  Nonetheless, servants could be abused, but the abuser could get punished by law if found guilty.  Servants had rights according to their indenture.

We can draw these conclusions.

These cases (except, hopefully, Mary King’s killing) could be multiplied by the thousands across the colonial eastern seaboard.  If modern historians don’t dig into social history and specific cases instead of making vast generalizations, they can draw the lopsided conclusion that America was completely oppressive.

The majority of indentured servants in the New World lived better lives than they did in the Old World, regardless of the decade.  Figuring they had nothing to lose and much to gain, a huge number volunteered to sign the indenture or contract and came over to the New World on a new adventure, pursuing a new life.  They were not always rounded up.

The masters and the servants got along just fine in the huge majority of cases.  But if a master became abusive, the servant could take his case to court.  Then the judges could find a new arrangement.

When toddlers were taken to the New World, surely church folks were very eager to shelter them.  They might have even found childless couples.  

Indentured servants were not “slaves.”  That insults blacks, who really were slaves and rarely acquired their freedom.  Instead, white servants, though under a binding contract, were somewhat like free apprentices.  Servants learned a trade.  Then they worked and aged out of servitude and acquired land for cheap or kept up their craft.

On the whole, they did not live miserable lives, and America was not uniquely evil for continuing this imperfect economic contract system.

Though not utopia, because human nature has “issues,” colonial Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the rest of America were great places to start a new life.  The vast majority of indentured immigrants followed the track to prosperity and freedom.

Millions of their descendants (like me) are living proof today.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted A Few Observations on Martin Luther and America’s First “Sherlock Holmes,” a case of a thieving indentured servant.



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Is the Bible More Violent than the Quran?


UK’s newspaper the Independent in its online version cites Tom Anderson, who runs a computer text analytics business. He did some textual analysis and “discovered” the Bible is more violent than the Quran. His findings cheer up Muslims and rile Christians. It is blowing up in social media.

Here is the bottom line: 

By categorising words into eight emotions — Joy, Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Surprise, Fear/Anxiety and Trust — the analysis found the Bible scored higher for anger and much lower for trust than the Quran. Further analysis found the Old Testament was more violent than the New Testament, and more than twice as violent as the Quran.


“Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads — more than twice that of the Quran — in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).”

Ten points of reply: 

1.. The method looks shaky at best. If we do a raw word search and count in the U.S. criminal code, we would find all sorts of violence. But does that mean the code endorses murder and robbery and rape?

2. Ancient Israel was a full-fledged nation with a military, surrounded by hostile nations that waged annihilation or near-annihilation warfare (much like its neighbors today). Here’s an excerpt from Mesha Stele (9th century BCE): 

“And Chemosh [a god] said to me [Mesha, king of Moab], Go take Nebo against Israel, and I went in the night and I fought against it from the break of day till noon, and I took it: and I killed in all seven thousand men, but I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-Chemosh; and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh.” 

In that passage, the Moabites wiped out the men and “devoted” (presumably enslaved) the women and children. The word “devoted” is conceptually related to the same word found in the book of Joshua. Israel’s war practices paralleled those of its neighbors. If the neighbors had been peaceful, we wouldn’t find war verses in the Hebrew Bible.

3. However, the extra-harsh language may be just a rhetorical trope that was intended to convey the national meaning that this or that tribe or nation was awesome and better than its neighbors. Yet, if the annihilation or near-annihilation warfare is literal, then the next points are valid.

4. Per the Bible, the Canaanites had the choice to leave the Promised Land.

5. If it is any consolation to a skeptical reader with a chip on his shoulder against everything biblical, the ancient Israelites never did clear them out or kill all of them, but this proved troublesome to the Israelites

6. Specifically, the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice. Following human nature that is bent towards corruption, some of the kings of Israel and the people copied the same atrocity. 1 Kings 11:7, 2 Kings 23:10, and Jer. 32:35. Trouble happens when one does not obey God’s command.

7. Mr. Anderson analyzes the New Testament and claims it has violence in it. Yes, it does, as in these two examples: Jesus was crucified. Paul was beaten and stoned several times. But does that mean Christians should crucify or beat or stone people? Anderson’s methods are dubious.

8. The fact is — there is simply no verse in all the New Testament that commands or even suggests Christians should form a militia or even a military to injure or kill people in the name of Christ. Rather, Peter and Paul hand the sword over to the state (Rom 13:1-6 and 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is where, once again, our Founders got things right. They separated the state from church, so the state does not meddle in church matters. Christians are called to preach the gospel that changes criminals to honest men, while the government is purposed to raise up a military and police force to protect the citizenry. (As to the question of Christians joining the military or police force, go here, here, and here. Short answer: Yes, they can, but when they discharge their weapons, they do so in the name of the government, not Christ. And Christians can exercise their right to self-defense.)

9. Christians do not live under the Old Covenant. No Christian denomination today quotes the Old Testament to endorse or encourage violence. So the Old Testament verses that command war — not gratuitous violence — in the name of God and righteousness do not apply to them.

10. Now for Islam. It is no secret that the Quran is filled with violent verses that terrorists use to justify killing people in the name of Allah. The terrorists don’t need to twist the verses. We don’t need to quote them, but instead here are some links: The Qital (Warfare) verses in the Quran, All the Jihad verses in the Quran. Jihad and Qital (Warfare) in the Quran, Traditions and Classical Law, A Brief History of War in Earliest Islam.

Mr. Anderson used a strange method that ripped the verses out of context. The Independent has a history of doing this (note the short video about marriage in the Old Covenant). The newspaper always seems to degrade the Bible. Does it do the same for Islam and the Quran?

The undeniable fact is that Islam is the most violent religion today and its followers use its “holy” book to justify themselves.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted Outlines of World Religions and Ten Big Differences between Christianity and Other Religions.

UK’s newspaper the Independent in its online version cites Tom Anderson, who runs a computer text analytics business. He did some textual analysis and “discovered” the Bible is more violent than the Quran. His findings cheer up Muslims and rile Christians. It is blowing up in social media.

Here is the bottom line: 

By categorising words into eight emotions — Joy, Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Surprise, Fear/Anxiety and Trust — the analysis found the Bible scored higher for anger and much lower for trust than the Quran. Further analysis found the Old Testament was more violent than the New Testament, and more than twice as violent as the Quran.


“Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads — more than twice that of the Quran — in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).”

Ten points of reply: 

1.. The method looks shaky at best. If we do a raw word search and count in the U.S. criminal code, we would find all sorts of violence. But does that mean the code endorses murder and robbery and rape?

2. Ancient Israel was a full-fledged nation with a military, surrounded by hostile nations that waged annihilation or near-annihilation warfare (much like its neighbors today). Here’s an excerpt from Mesha Stele (9th century BCE): 

“And Chemosh [a god] said to me [Mesha, king of Moab], Go take Nebo against Israel, and I went in the night and I fought against it from the break of day till noon, and I took it: and I killed in all seven thousand men, but I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-Chemosh; and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh.” 

In that passage, the Moabites wiped out the men and “devoted” (presumably enslaved) the women and children. The word “devoted” is conceptually related to the same word found in the book of Joshua. Israel’s war practices paralleled those of its neighbors. If the neighbors had been peaceful, we wouldn’t find war verses in the Hebrew Bible.

3. However, the extra-harsh language may be just a rhetorical trope that was intended to convey the national meaning that this or that tribe or nation was awesome and better than its neighbors. Yet, if the annihilation or near-annihilation warfare is literal, then the next points are valid.

4. Per the Bible, the Canaanites had the choice to leave the Promised Land.

5. If it is any consolation to a skeptical reader with a chip on his shoulder against everything biblical, the ancient Israelites never did clear them out or kill all of them, but this proved troublesome to the Israelites

6. Specifically, the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice. Following human nature that is bent towards corruption, some of the kings of Israel and the people copied the same atrocity. 1 Kings 11:7, 2 Kings 23:10, and Jer. 32:35. Trouble happens when one does not obey God’s command.

7. Mr. Anderson analyzes the New Testament and claims it has violence in it. Yes, it does, as in these two examples: Jesus was crucified. Paul was beaten and stoned several times. But does that mean Christians should crucify or beat or stone people? Anderson’s methods are dubious.

8. The fact is — there is simply no verse in all the New Testament that commands or even suggests Christians should form a militia or even a military to injure or kill people in the name of Christ. Rather, Peter and Paul hand the sword over to the state (Rom 13:1-6 and 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is where, once again, our Founders got things right. They separated the state from church, so the state does not meddle in church matters. Christians are called to preach the gospel that changes criminals to honest men, while the government is purposed to raise up a military and police force to protect the citizenry. (As to the question of Christians joining the military or police force, go here, here, and here. Short answer: Yes, they can, but when they discharge their weapons, they do so in the name of the government, not Christ. And Christians can exercise their right to self-defense.)

9. Christians do not live under the Old Covenant. No Christian denomination today quotes the Old Testament to endorse or encourage violence. So the Old Testament verses that command war — not gratuitous violence — in the name of God and righteousness do not apply to them.

10. Now for Islam. It is no secret that the Quran is filled with violent verses that terrorists use to justify killing people in the name of Allah. The terrorists don’t need to twist the verses. We don’t need to quote them, but instead here are some links: The Qital (Warfare) verses in the Quran, All the Jihad verses in the Quran. Jihad and Qital (Warfare) in the Quran, Traditions and Classical Law, A Brief History of War in Earliest Islam.

Mr. Anderson used a strange method that ripped the verses out of context. The Independent has a history of doing this (note the short video about marriage in the Old Covenant). The newspaper always seems to degrade the Bible. Does it do the same for Islam and the Quran?

The undeniable fact is that Islam is the most violent religion today and its followers use its “holy” book to justify themselves.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted Outlines of World Religions and Ten Big Differences between Christianity and Other Religions.



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