(Abrahamic) Religion explained via Politics

[A fairy tale.]

In the beginning was the contract.

Also known as the covenant, it was a mutual aid agreement between some Egyptians and almighty God. As such, it was a bit lopsided. The Egyptians — now known as Jews — weren’t very good at sticking by their side of it. Fortunately, God didn’t actually need their help. On the other hand, he did preserve them, through thousands of years, but not very comfortably. Constitutionally, therefore, we can identify the Jews as traditional (“small c”) conservatives. Certainly, they believe in contracts and property law, but leavened with repeated reminders that “Your God is a Compassionate God”: if you can’t stick with an agreement with God, then you should keep that in mind enforcing other contracts.

Now, for the following keep in mind that Liberals are attracted by equality and fairness, while Conservatives prefer authority, loyalty and purity. Certainly, for one (demonstrably fallible) people to have a contract with God while others didn’t seem very fair, and undoubtedly, it wasn’t equal. Perhaps it was just an archetype of some general principles, that applied to all, such as:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Transforming God’s contract with a specific group into something that anyone could partake was a very liberal thing to do. However, like many liberal ideas, it proved difficult in practice: building your kingdom on “my kingdom is not of this world” is like building a castle in the clouds.

More galling still to those on the eastern frontier of the Roman empire was the cynical cooptation of Christianity by Constantine and his successors. They had no wish to be Roman, and the behavior of the Romans (Byzantines) seemed rather the antithesis of what Jesus was said to have stood for anyway. But how to distill the essence of this will to purity and self-determination in a transcendental vessel?

Muhammad organized Islam around Neoconservative lines: accepting the universality (we are not Jews), but stressing authority, loyalty and purity, rather than equality and fairness. Islam was by design more practical: let the liberals have their “without love I am nothing but a resounding gong” which they obviously don’t believe in (“they” were Byzantines, remember). The Caliphate was a political entity and Muhammad made laws to organize and perpetuate it as such.

Author’s note:
I do think religions should have some ontological differences. I have always sensed “why” there was a difference between Judaism and Christianity. The abstraction away from the covenant on the one hand, and “the identification of man and God” on the other. But what about Islam? Yes, ok — there was the prophet. But how come? What is new in the new prophesy? This is my first stab at understanding it… (enlightening) comments appreciated!

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