I haven't read every post. I've peeked in later, a little surprised that it's still even viable, and I've purposefully skipped on by stuff where I couldn't stand some of the premises I gathered or people just seemed to not be on the same page to discuss it anyway...
Basically, I'm very skeptical on however one could 'prove' all or even a majority of members of some religion that size to be relatively more peaceful than others of similar sizes. A handful of verses in only one particular translation a thousand years later don't really convince me, any more than they do coming from Christianity. And in the case of Christianity which I've heard slightly more about, I have also been told by specialists, if you care to get a historical basis claim involved -- that many translations are patently wrong given more scholarly linguistic and historical evidence. In a manner of speaking sure, anyone "could" illustrate some trend in something somewhere somehow, but with so many angles, extrapolating that to conclude about the whole religion through history in the world we have out there? Through which parts of history, again? I'm just afraid it would probably be a case of preaching to a witchhunt choir.
A zillion ready ways to slice this and talk past each other much of the while. Seems like something that's wide open to all sorts of rigged comparisons and unlikely sweeping assertions. I do notice that the OP, despite the title, asked mainly about scripture -- which I can't be bothered with about this sort of question so much personally (as I just explained) -- but I grant you there was some sort of attempt there to focus it. And the thread later went all over taking other approaches, although I suspect that was kind of unavoidable. Anyway, I haven't pored over every post or fixed on some to repost, so this is not going to be a quote and riposte fest.
Anyway... I will drop in a wave to a piece by Rozsa in Salon.
This happened to be in reference to some events on Bill Maher's show, but that isn't what concerns me just now. I haven't gotten on to reading just what happened on the show yet. Without reviewing Maher himself much in any depth, I thought some of this was probably fairly well phrased and relevant to that very broadly (if rather awkwardly) phrased question in the thread title.
There may be a few roughly cut corners in this outline of history too. Well, it's rather hard not to cut something
short with a titular question this big and shotgun. And then someone else who doesn't like a point of view often rushes to fill that gap, frequently enough with rather hotter air of their own that sometimes doesn't even deal with those parts of the question where a cited author or poster's material did
make sense to apply. Nevertheless, this piece mentions broad contours that I think, are often conveniently forgotten or played down in American media and even sometimes in classroom discussions.
To sum up the early portion, Rozsa reports that Maher attempted to argue that Islam itself (yes the religion somehow or other), generally, leads disproportionately toward human rights abuses. I'm not sure if multiple, more or less violent human rights abuses are precisely the opposite of "Peace" for everyone in this thread... But I imagine it's still within the (I think vastly extensive if vague) scope of some arguments that have passed through here. Some snippings:
There is a reason Enlightenment values became dominant in the West, to the point that even religious Westerners are usually far less fundamentalist than their pre-Enlightenment antecedents. While Muslim countries were being conquered and economically exploited by Western imperialist powers, affluence spread in North America and Europe thanks to the twin economic engines of the Industrial Revolution (as well as subsequent scientific revolutions) and free market capitalism. This same unregulated capitalism, of course, has also done more than its fair share to create massive inequalities of wealth in Muslim countries; when combined with a widespread awareness of colonialist abuses committed by the United States, Great Britain, France, Israel, and other Western nations, it creates a hotbed for ideas very different from the ones preferred by Enlightenment thinkers.
When militant Islamism is viewed not as a primarily religious movement but rather as an intensely emotional response to the legacy of Western colonialism, its character makes a great deal more sense.
In short, the closest any participant in the debate came to a true liberal understanding of the deeper forces at play in the Muslim world was Ben Affleck when he observed: “We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us by an awful lot. We’ve invaded more – and somehow we’re exempt from these things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in.”
Whether it’s the anti-Islamic policies implemented by government leaders in France and Germany, America’s preemptive war in Iraq, or Israel’s bombardment in Gaza, the point here is not that there is an inherent problem in Judeo-Christian theology that needs to be viewed as a threat; after all, those conflicts were motivated not by the Jewish or Christian faiths but by nationalist ideologies (usually backed by powerful business interests). While the average Westerner may not agree with these measures, they are nevertheless genuine reflections of the mentality of First World privilege that continues to be a dominant factor in world politics today. The spread of the ideals of militant Islamism is a dangerously popular response in large parts of the Muslim world to these issues – but it must not be forgotten that the fundamental power struggle between the West and postcolonial countries is the underlying issue here, not the tenets of the religion through which the hatreds of the one side has manifested itself.
You can read the rest in the link, but given that I basically agree with this is a general outline... Now in regard to the OP:
There is no excuse for what Muhammad did, in or out of his historical context.
This is a cute quote, but really... Doesn't everyone
make ethical decisions more or less within their historical context? I imagine you could argue that a leader or someone who claims to give advice on social order for a whole people should be more progressive, and we might prefer that they are. But there are plenty of possible excuses. The question is whether you accept that sometimes people are limited by the social context they live in -- they may mistakes, they may be ignorant, they may face impossible choices. This is partly tall tale after all (certainly once you start comparing it to the New Testament), so maybe they even fail to assume that they might come back from the dead to give more lessons and put things "in context" for others. I dunno.
we colloquially say those who do things we abhor cannot be allowed as examples... But I'm not sure this makes analytical sense. For it to make moral sense in today's world, you have to compare it to someone. Jesus came back from the dead, so what kind of comparison is that. I don't think M. had that luxury? Not that I have been studying the Koran much -- so please do tell me if he arose from the dead to make his incentives and intentions clearer for a then conquered people, too.
And what was Jesus' context then? Could some reasonable argument be made that perhaps the Jewish people of his presumptive historical time would have been more justly
served by an exodus a la Moses... (He was
prototyping walking on water, no?) Or even with a violent uprising (at least that Moses had plagues to get things moving)...
How about by getting on with that apocalypse thing that is promised in Revelation anyway
. Why I know that's hugely popular with some Christian denominations; I grew up hearing it fairly often among Methodists and constantly
among Pentacostals, and it's popped up pretty much whenever I've read about some very large Southern churches... Yet that is actually another book (or compilation and compromise between how many different sources, refurbished periodically over the centuries) and perhaps another society at the time of writing. But that isn't stopping you from stringing together some catchall, shotgun case against Islam it seems. I'm pretty sure quite a few Christians prefer to emphasize that
kind of massive violence and survival and matyrdom and punishment story. And quite a few picking some part is all it takes for you
to conclude Islam itself is somehow just rotten, yes?
Even if we assume that the verses which preach Jihad are 'outdated' there's obviously an alarming number of Muslims who believe the Jihad verses override the peaceful ones.
I think maybe this has been argued here before, but I would say there are an alarming number of people in other faiths doing much the same thing, Christianity being the one I'm most familiar with... You know. And by the way, a whole lot of people who I suspect don't know the actual history of many verses they (sometimes quite mistakenly) cite as excuses for fire and brimstone policy either.
It's one thing to say certain crimes are abhorrent in themselves. It's one thing to say do we stop this particular thing here or there if we can. But the attempts to paint a faceless, totally uniform and nigh-mindless force of barbarians or even a whole religion
(!) "over there" somewhere behind it with no relationship to anything the West has ever done ('obviously') because see, they're so evil we have never
in our domestic or international history done anything that compares? And therefore we can't understand them, for they are just wacked? Now that's just a kind of converse hyperbole.
This conflict will never end simply because Islam is dualistic and rotten at its core. And if you ignore roughly half of what the Quran tells you to do, as a Muslim, can you even be considered a Muslim anymore? That's not how religion works. It's all or nothing.
If the world and society as I know it were this
brutally simple, I don't even know where to begin. I would have never seen most of the world -- certainly not Asia -- because in my hometown, most of the authorities and especially the more fervent religious elders told me it was nigh impossible to understand and rather unpatriotic to think others could be doing anything useful to learn from those places
rather than sitting at home where they could tell me better how to interpret, and some thought even destabilizing or dangerous. Now if I didn't believe anything
they told me at any level about honesty or progress or a fundamental good in many people in the world, then I probably would have either killed someone or gone off and gotten myself killed in a still more risky adventure somewhere, or both.
I do understand the sentiment that people are expected to follow a certain degree of letter of the book... But you should be aware that if that is taken literally, parts of the Old Testament alone appear at least in the letter, to conflict. And some parts would have people in great trouble today, and perhaps something worse than avoiding shellfish or synthetic clothing? I don't claim to adhere to all that sort of "all in" or "all out" when it comes to a whole aged (compilation) tome myself but I think I have heard enough passing references to this sort of thing. So I leave it up to you whether you want to google things like verses that conflict and find more or not. Your own logic could be flipped against your case: How can anyone ignore those verses that do
say do dastardly things? So it's a knot where you can't do or not do, if that is your whole argument.
There's also this alarming habit of pointing at other religions and saying they are just as murderous to somehow diffuse responsibility.
What if instead of starting out claiming one religion obviously must be just better or worse on the whole... What if a good part of the international system as we know it could be rotten at its
core? You don't have to be blowing stuff up to notice there is a lot of inequality out there and a lot of bad history on many different levels, going simultaneously in so many different directions, that still
is built into what we have now. What's striking is in the West we more often tend to insist we personally have no control, or else (often simultaneously) we must have "better" self-
control, more civilization and maturity we say, because we don't respond to the gross inequity we benefit from (and our corporate masters benefit from thousands of times more) by getting angry and becoming even more prone to selectively cite religious texts than umm, you know, we already do?
I know we often end up in situations where people in power get to demand the minorities or the less armed or less funded side 'stop the violence' first
(and then, maybe, if we're lucky, there will be some little concessions? hmm?). But I don't think the basic point of comparative study is really
to blur the picture until no one can find practical problems. Or it shouldn't be. It's hard sometimes because often when you start talking about a particular case, a lot of damnation rhetoric or even hyper-violent police action comes out about things that really, most people in say, America aren't taught or talking a whole lot about to begin with.