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Qur’an And Torah Are Pro Religious Evolution (Part II) – OpEd

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Beginning in 1985, a series of national surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution between 1985 to 2007 when they were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” However, over the last decade, the percentage of American adults who agreed with this statement increased from 40% to 54%.

Protestant religious fundamentalism was the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution. Surprisingly many of those who scored highest on the scale of religious fundamentalism shifted toward acceptance of evolution, rising four-fold in the last three decades, from 8% in 1988 to 32% in 2019.

But there is now a widening gap between Republican and Democrat acceptance of evolution.
As of 2019, 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution compared to 83% of liberal Democrats. This is the same kind of political division that we see over gay marriage, immigration, and abortion

Without successful reproduction no species can flourish, or even survive. HS were as subject to the biological imperative (commandment) to be fruitful and multiply as all other species. But the intelligent minds of HS knew the dangers of childbirth. Infant mortality rates in most tribes were more than one in four. The maternal death rate for every four births was more than one in ten. Pregnancy was highly desired and birth anxiously awaited. Pregnant women naturally sought the physical help of their mothers and grandmothers who in turn sought the spiritual help of their now departed mothers and grandmothers.

Among the earliest Gods were birth Goddesses. Small stone figures of very pregnant birth Goddesses often referred to as “Venus” figures go back 30-40,000 years. They are the first examples of iconic religion. The worship of spirits within natural phenomena does not need iconic representation. But birth rarely took place in the open or in public. The birth Goddess needed to be present in some tangible way in order to ease the anxiety of women in labor.

Even today in some African countries the maternal mortality rate is 2%+ per birth. A woman who gave birth to 8 children had a one in six chance of dying from giving birth. Any band would benefit even if the presence of Goddesses reduced that mortality rate by only 5%. Carvings in wood of birth Goddesses probably preceded stone statues by many millennia and may have originated 50-100,000 years ago.

Shamans also found that visual aids helped their patients relate to the mysterious struggle that the Shaman fought in the foreign spirit world. Since the spirits of animals were often involved both as friend and foe, much of prehistoric rock art (especially in difficult to access caves) probably relates to Shamanistic healing rites. Eventually iconic representations of gods and spirits would become almost universal. In historic times these icons would be viewed by increasing numbers of people as representatives rather than incarnations of the Divine.

There was no reason to limit activities of spirits to the realm of the dead or the diseased. All natural phenomena could be motivated by spirit minds. Self aware intelligent minds that can read the intentions and motivations of others can also project all kinds of motivations on to other people, animals, objects and events.

Gifts and offerings should be able to influence these spirits (intelligent minds do not like to admit to impotence) and so regular offerings should be made by a group/clan/tribe, to keep the natural forces friendly. Western anthropologists influenced by Christian thinking refer to these offerings as sacrifices. The Hebrew term Korban and the Arabic word ‘Qurban’ are both more accurate and more insightful.

The verb l’karayv in Hebrew means to draw near or come close. A Korban is a way to reattach, reach, reengage or reconnect the human realm to the Divine realm. The Qur’an states Qurban has little to do with blood: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him…” (22:37) and the Biblical God doesn’t want grain or meat offerings (Psalm 40:7).

Rather, Qurban is done to help the poor and in remembrance of Abraham’s willingness to offer his son Ishmael at God’s command. When food and drink are offered to another it is not a sacrifice. Food and liquid offerings are an invitation to a closer relationship. Especially during ceremonial occasions food and drink serve to bring people together, including those who have been estranged from one another because of transgressions that have occurred.

Thus offerings to God can help people who feel estranged from God return to a closer (karayv) relationship. Offerings help people reunite or reconcile with God. The food offered to a God is usually eaten wholly or in part by those who contribute it or by the priests who offer it. Humans offer them, especially when they feel estranged from the Divine, in order to reattach and draw closer (karayv) to the Divine.

Only human sacrifice should be called sacrifice. While human sacrifice was widespread in the past it was usually relatively rare.

Ritual specialists, who unlike charismatic Shamans are more likely to be administrator types, usually direct these offerings. As time goes on the rites tend to get more complex and the necessary skills require more training. Those people performing the complex rites easily become a hereditary cast of professional priests. They sometimes also offer an alternative type of leadership to that of the hunter/warrior types.

Priests can become the custodians of the customary law of the tribe. Priests can offer advice to help in making important decisions by consulting the gods to determine their will. Fortune telling enables decision-makers to avoid the backlash of wrong decisions while claiming credit for the good ones. Divination also reduces many people’s anxiety about difficult decisions in unclear situations. Even today millions of Americans still consult astrology charts and in Asia people in many Buddhist temples still cast their fortunes.

Most people feel better when they are in control of the important factors in their life. The strong desire for control coupled with belief in good and evil spirits eventually leads some HS intelligent minds to attempt to force a spirit do what an individual wants it to do. Magic is an attempt to subjugate a force in the spiritual world for another person’s weal or woe. Magic is always dangerous because people believe that the spirits do not like to be enslaved by humans and power tends to corrupt even those with good intentions.

Yet many tribal religions still have lots of room for defensive magic and even those religions that condemn magic have occasional practitioners. Again, the mind-body placebo effect makes magic effective in some societies where belief in magic and superstitions is widespread and well accepted.

Accusations of magic and witchcraft are also widespread in some tribal societies. They can be the result of paranoia or scapegoating as often, if not more often, than the actual incidence of magic. Magic and superstitions are the dark side of HS spirituality.

So when all of the polytheistic priestly classes began to work for the rulering military and wealthy classes; God sent his Prophets to warn the rulers and the general population of their sins and their crimes against orphans, widows, strangers and immigrants, and the poor people among them. Prophet Moses is the best example of this.

When Prophet Moses was sent by Allah, he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the enslaved Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” (20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala) (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) and “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12).

Prophet Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if he doesn’t stop setting himself up as a God and doesn’t let the Children of Israel go free. Prophet Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Israel. Only when the Jewish nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Prophet Moses, without any mediation from an angel.

Only then can the Jewish nation enter into a covenant with the God of Prophet Abraham the Hebrew, at Mount Sinai. Prophet Abraham was the first person to be called a “Hebrew” in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 14:13). The term Hebrew comes from the verb to go over a boundary, like the Euphrates or Jordan river, so to be a migrant.

Prophet Abraham was the first Muslim Hebrew as Qur’an 3:67 states: “He (Abraham) was not Yahuudiyyaun, “a Jew”, nor Nasraaniyyaan, “a Christian”, but rather a Haniifaam, “a Muslimaan, i.e. “a monotheistic Hebrew believer submitting (Islam) to the one imageless God who created all space and time; and who made Prophet Abraham’s ongoing descendants through Prophets Isaac and Jacob (Israel), into a great multitude of monotheists called the People of Israel-Banu Israel.

For1200+ years after Prophet Moses, the Banu Israel was the only ongoing monotheistic community in the world. Unlike the other monotheistic communities that rose and fell during those centuries; most, but not all, of Banu Israel remained loyal to the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai.

But as the centuries passed the ongoing need to protect the Jewish way of life became increasingly the focus of their efforts; and after the deaths of Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Banu Israel became more and more inclined to building a fence around the Torah, and making the rules more numerous and restrictive.

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Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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