By their very nature, all religious theologies based on irrational supernaturalism don't make sense.
But some theologies are more non-sensical than others -- particularly destructive ones which call for violence and killing in the name of God. Like that preached by the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He was on TIME magazine's Shortlist for 2015 Person of the Year, losing out to Angela Merkel. In the Person of the Year issue, al-Baghdadi got a two-page writeup.
The Quran, Islam's holy book, was a big part of his life from an early age.
Born into a religiously devout lower-middle-class Sunni Muslim family in Iraq in 1971, Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, who years later adopted the nom de guerre al-Baghdadi, was an unexceptional, shy child, according to recent biographies based on interviews with those who knew him. He never excelled at religious scholarship but was talented at the recitation of Quranic verse. In college and graduate school, he studied the style and technique of reciting the Quran, and he wrote a master’s thesis on a medieval commentary on the subject.
Then al-Baghdadi developed his own bizarre take on Islam.
Baghdadi has elaborated an apocalyptic vision of a final battle between the forces of radical Islam and the West. In a Ramadan sermon delivered in mid-2014, he declared slavery to be the universal human condition: Muslim believers are indentured to Allah, while nonbelievers are the rightful property of Muslims. He also said the time of death for each man and woman is pre-ordained, implying that all killings must be the will of Allah. This teaching paved the way for his chief spokesman to deliver the following message to ISIS supporters everywhere a few months later: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European,” the spokesman said, “kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military.”
There's obviously a whole lot not-to-like here.
Slavery is the universal human condition? Well, I can sort of understand the notion of Muslim believers being "indentured to Allah," since religious people often consider that God is the master and they are obedient servants of the Almighty.
Followers of a guru often look upon him/her in a similar fashion: being an embodiment of divinity, the guru's teachings and orders are to be accepted in an unquestioning manner.
This is weird enough, but al-Baghdadi's contention that "nonbelievers are the rightful property of Muslims" goes way further into Wacked Out territory. It's one thing to surrender oneself to Allah; it's a whole other thing to believe that Allah wants all non-Muslims to be subject to Islamic believers.
Which includes killing the disbeliever "whether he is civilian or military." I usually can find some tiny bit of reasonableness buried in theological doctrines, but it is impossible for me to do so in this case. Unless Allah is a total psychopath.
Then there's al-Baghdadi's take on destiny and free will.
It isn't out of the ordinary for a religious believer to consider that a person's time of death is pre-ordained.
We often hear statements like, "His time had come" or "God called her home" at someone's passing. Also, one way of looking at Einstein's theory of relativity is that everything in the space-time continuum is just there. In a sense, everything has already happened, though it doesn't seem that way to us.
So I can accept the possibility (if not probability) of determinism -- a secular variety, at least.
However, positing that "all killings must be the will of Allah" clearly is an effort to evade responsibility for ISIS' despicable acts. Anybody could use this sort of justification. After murdering someone, a Christian could say "The Devil made me do it."
Sure, it is what it is, as simplistic as this saying is, makes sense to me. But it is what it is, because Allah wants it to be that way-- gibberish.
Nobody knows whether Allah even exists, including al-Baghdadi. Discerning what the non-existent Allah wants obviously is even more problematic. So there's no defensible reason for any Muslim, or indeed any believer in some other religion, to consider that what happens in the world is the will of a supernatural being.
I assume that al-Baghdadi must also consider that all killings of ISIS followers also is the will of Allah, as is happening right now in the fighting for control of Ramadi.
Six hundred to 1,000 Islamic State fighters were said to have been in Ramadi when the overall offensive began two weeks ago, but several hundred of them have been killed in fighting and airstrikes since then, according to Iraqi and Western officials.
So I'm wondering how al-Baghdadi will spin the ISIS defeat if Ramadi is taken over by Iraqi forces.
This must be the will of Allah, right? Or does Allah only will the deaths of non-believers? If the latter is true, then some force greater than Allah must be at work in Ramadi, making al-Baghdadi's Almighty not very mighty.
Of course, any attempt to make sense of al-Baghdadi's ridiculous theology is bound to fail, since it is non-sensical, like the foundation of every religion. It's just that al-Baghdadi's irrational beliefs are way more dangerous than most theologies, leading as they do to so much death and destruction.