(It's my first time posting an article, so please go easy on me.)

I wonder if anyone ever fully analysed the Qran and all the resources it uses to tug at the feelings of the reader? It is a remarkably persuasive (if not at all convincing)  book, even if I say so myself as an ex Muslim. I've started recognizing some patterns since I started reading this site, but I'd like to know if there is a full-blown, complete, exhaustive deconstruction of that book, that is not dripped in islamophobia, ethnocentrism, and other common failures I have seen in Western theologians when applied to Islam. Not a book about "How the Qran is evil" or "How the Qran is Wrong" or "How IT'S A FAAAKE" but "How, precisely, it manipulates you". Can anyone here point me towards such a work?

And where is the markup help in this blog? I can't seem to find it and it frustrates the hell out of me when I'm commenting usual posts.

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Why do you believe this effect is real, and stems from the text itself, rather than the social constructions surrounding it? This is the question that comes before trying to understand the effect. Give an example from the text.

Let me see... well, I had to look no further than the second Surat, Surat Al Baqarah, the first part of which seems to have been written specifically for us.. Interesting site there, you can get several different transliterations and languages, with the top one being the most basic in English.

Alhtough I guess this was intended for the polytheists, since declared atheism back then was never thought of, as such. Then again, you could argue that, like many modern Japanese, polytheism could be said to be "atheistic and superstitious": at least in Ancient Greece it was much more of a Cheering And Professing social construct than an Actually Believing thing. Perhaps Christianity and Islam were actually exotic novelties, for the people of the time. But I'm extrapolating way beyond my league here.

You didn't give any analysis or even explanation of what it is you want us to look for. What is particularly persuasive about what element of the text? Is the persuasive argument you refer to leads to an incorrect conclusion (name both the conclusion and the argument)? (I fail to see the point or meaning of the second paragraph of your comment, though maybe I just lack the necessary background.)

I am sorry. I seem not to have a clear idea of what I am looking for, precisely. Let me see... When you hear a political speech, it is usually easy to deconstruct all the resources used? The buzzwords. The appeals to emotion, tradition, ridicule. The syntactical construction, alliteration, anaphores. Rythm, pauses. Specific ways the phrases are constructed to transmit a precise feeling. Applause Lights. All those tools... Now, the Qran was written fourteen centuries ago. Surely its rethorical structure can be broken piecemeal and reduced to its elementary components. We live in a reductionist universe, don't we?

The problem is, I am not familiar with a specific, systematic method of doing this properly and rigoursly, without letting my emotions get in the way. It's not been much time since I relinquished my old beliefs, and I get really emotional and bothered and confused when reading this stuff again. I don't like feeling that way. I want to tidy my mind till I feel I have understood the Islam phenomenon utterly and completely. I want to Dissolve The Question.

When I am confronted with a religious apologist I don't want to only be able to say: "You are wrong".

I want to be able to say "You have tried to manipulate me into believing your stuff this way and that way. Your own beliefs stem from this and that emotion, common human mistake, bias, fallacy, mechanism, and those beliefs influence your actions this and that way."

I know most people here are more familiar with Bible and Torah analysis, but I thought perhaps some of you could direct me to something that may help me understand what powers my own religion's texts, how they work on people's minds, which would help me in Raising The Sanity Waterline if it comes to that.

How much of the emotional effect of the Koran would you say comes through in translation?

Like other texts of a similarly poetic nature, it varies a LOT with the transliteration. I might be biaised since I can read it in the original, and Classic Arabic is already so emphatic and hammy on its own even saying "I am going to do my LAUNDRY" sounds as if Dan Green was saying it, so there's that too...

Nitpick: A tranliteration is duplicating the sounds of a passage to the extent possible in another alphabet. A translation is conveying the meaning to the extent possible.

Thank you. I don't like to fall into the "You Keep Using That Word" trope/trap.

The problem is, look at your examples. Half of them are terms from rhetoric and literature in general, while the other half are philosophy/psychology/logic. There's not going to be any reference that covers both halves, because that would not map neatly onto any purpose (even an atheist polemicist with an interest in literary criticism wouldn't write such a work).

I am genuinely surprised. What about, as I said, the analysis and criticism of political discourse? Surely both fields are highly relevant! And the Qran can be easily said to be a huge speech/manifesto. I remember reading works that did exactly this to the Communist Manifesto, by the way, demonstrating with detail that it was both "full of shit" and "badly written". While such an acerbic tone as that of that work is unnecessary and even counterproductive as a norm, the content and the method seemed sound and productive.

The problem is, it's not clear at all what this post is about. Why would such analysis be interesting? What would be the goal or expected result of that?

There are 1.3 to 1.8 billion people in the world who at least profess to believe in this book (I think I have phrased it properly in Lesswrong terms, yes?). This book is claimed to be miraculous and inimitable. Exposure to it is said to be a strong incentive to faith. It is the main miracle Muslims claim God has performed to endorse Muhammed as the Final Prophet.

Reducing it to its final components, understanding the intricacies of its style, how exactly it affects people's hearts, will disprove that hypothesis. People will be able to say "This is why I feel the way I feel when reading this book. I know how it works." . Also Atheism will be less unthinkable and people like me will be able to free themselves from the shackles of faith much more easily, and achieve peace of mind, consciousness and heart like I have.

This is why I believe the net expected utility of this exercise is extremely positive, for all of humanity, and for the Muslim world in particular.

Except that none of that is caused by the contents of the book itself; belief is all about community membership. Pointing out the rhetorical techniques that the Quran uses won't change the minds of any believers; it'll be perceived as an attack on their community, making them dislike whoever did the analysis and achieving nothing.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees where aesthetic judgments really originate -- I just wish you guys would apply insights like this to art that's popular within your groups.

Modding Raw_Power's comments up due to taking the right course of action for his epistemic state.

You're probably right that it won't have much effect on believers, but I think it could be very useful for people who are deprogramming themselves.

Only if it is presented as such. Wording and presentation can completely change the way a text is percieved. Christianity, end Judaism even more so, are a matter of community and membership. From my experience, there is no such thing in the Islam I know. People don't meet in the Mosque. They don't sing in choirs. They don't organize activities. They come in friday, they pray, they leave, hoping that no-one has stolen their shoes (they remove them before entering and leave them at the entry, you see... though it has just I occurred to me that they could use lockers like in gyms... ). They don't help each other personally, charity is a state monopoly. Hell, most of the time they don't even talk to each other. islam is a solitary, individual activity that every one performs mostly on their own. There is a sense of community with the Islamic Nation, at large, but not on an immediate, neighbhorhood scale. It's the same sort of feeling that being a member of "Western Civilization" elicits.

And the Qran is incredibly central to the Islamic beliefs. It is much more airtight, much more consistent and cohesive than the Bible or the Torah. It is the Constitution, the ultimate reference, the literal Word Of God. Saying or implying that "God is an eloquent speaker and that we have figured out how exquisitely well He has used the Arabic language to leave his ultimate testament to Humanity" rather than "Muhammad was a talentedly manipulative cult leader" is sure not to earn anyone's ire. It is also sure to provide new venues for the skeptical, inquisitve, curious Muslim's mind to explore, in the same way that Kant's demonstration of Religion's Claim To Be Non Disprovable actually seriously raised the question of the existence of God, paving the way, intellectually, for those of the nineteenth century who decided they could do without it.

And, of course, some Muslims can get touchy about this and overreact, the same way some priests were absolutely infuriated by Kant's work. Do you think whatever pressures he had to endure made his work not worth the effort?

Only if it is presented as such.

If effect of Qur’an is not caused by properties of the text itself, then your quest is a failure, no matter the presentation.

But they are properties of the text itself, just like the emotion you get from watching the Super Tengen Toppa Giga Drill Breaker is a property of the text (which just happens to be in an audiovisual format). That those properties are heavily dependent on context (the videos I linked to probably won't provoke much of an emotional response in anyone who hasn't followed the narrative up until that point, and will probably not have the same effect on someone who is familiar with anime and humongous mecha as on someone who is only familiar with House MD and How I Met Your Mother-type serials: however, they can trigger extreme emotions, up to and including what can only be qualified as nerdgasm, when the right contextual conditions conditions are met) does not mean the properties do not exist in and of themselves.

Notice also that, as Super Robot series and Frank Miller stories (the good ones at least) egregiously demonstrate, repetition and redundance and stock footage are not necessarily incompatible with awesome, and, to a receptive mind, might even strongly and positively correlate.

To think that one day I would illustrate a point about the Qran by comparing it to Gurren Lagann... This reminds me of how funny it was when I tried to explain the premise of Evangelion to my uncles the day they mentioned that according to some Hadith or another Adam was a 40 meter giant. Teh lulz...

If a christian reveres a bone of long-dead person and believes that it has all sorts of magical healing powers, this strange disposition is not caused by some property of the bone itself that makes people believe in its healing powers.

In the previous comment, I argued the possibility and implication of such situation; it's also not completely out of the question that the text itself has nontrivial probability of brainwashing people even in the absence of the huge social infrastructure currently surrounding it.

There is no point in demonstrating examples where something has an effect on its own perception, we all know such examples exist.

Thanks for the cultural info. Do you know whether non-communal observance is typical across Islam?

You mean solitary observance? Well, it is mandatory for a Muslim to go to a Mosque on Friday, but since there are usually so many and no-one is going to go all Inquisition over you, you may get very easily get away with not going at all, and even by not praying at all, ever. That is your, private, personal business. However things like fasting are much more social, and you will get in at least some trouble if you eat in public during the day in Ramadan.

About the smaller villages, AFAIK it's the same thing: private prayer is private. If you want God to give you bad marks that's your problem. I don't know how they are about Mosque attendance.

Again, this is all from my perspective as a Moroccan. I heard that from the Arab countries there in the Middle East we're seen as almost Western.

EDIT: Oh and thank you for your interest. Most of humanity is very misinformed about Islam, including most Muslims. Helping people update their priors there will always be to my benefit... though it's depressing how it seems the information sharing process is below critical point, so that my efforts never affect more than a depressingly small number of nodes.

No, I meant that I was intrigued by how little socializing is included in going to a mosque, and, I admit, left wondering if there's a niche for mosques which encourage more contact among worshipers. I also wonder whether people who've converted to Islam from religions which more contact and help in congregations push their mosques towards the social structures they're used to.

Edit: This comment is made based on a misinterpretation of the parent comment; see this response.

There are 1.3 to 1.8 billion people in the world who at least profess to believe in this book (I think I have phrased it properly in Lesswrong terms, yes?). This book is claimed to be miraculous and inimitable. Exposure to it is said to be a strong incentive to faith. It is the main miracle Muslims claim God has performed to endorse Muhammed as the Final Prophet.

You are making the same error in concluding that the book is persuasive as people who conclude that the book is correct or the book is written by a Prophet of God. It could be the focus of affective halo, but hardly its cause. When you point to billions of people experiencing the halo, you are still not establishing causation.

I wasn't presenting that as evidence of intrinsic qualities of the book, I was simply giving an idea of the magnitude of the humongous mass of people that could benefit from this.

This is why I believe the net expected utility of this exercise is extremely positive, for all of humanity, and for the Muslim world in particular.

Okay, my mistake (edited the original comment).

[-][anonymous]11y 0

A partial way to check would be to look at accounts by people who converted to Islam, especially if there weren't external incentives-- to what extent do they say they were convinced by reading the Koran, and to what extent were they convinced by knowing Muslims who impressed them or by sampling observances and finding a good fit?

Even then, Qur’an could work as the affective focus without being the source of affect, or adequately accounting for resulting extent of accumulated affect, even if contributing incrementally (not to unusual degree). There is also prestige you can't control for. The main factor must be the anti-epistemic mode that allows the affect to run out of control, not the features accompanying the process of running out of control.

^ I'm sorry, I have only just finished reading the How To Actually Change your mind sequence, and I am still currently unable to understand this post. Could you please say it a bit less technically for my convenience?.

Don't know a direct answer to your question, but I think these types of books (Torah is the one I am very familiar with) are best deconstructed by historians, as they were not all written at once (at least this is the case for Torah).

And where is the markup help in this blog? I can't seem to find it and it frustrates the hell out of me when I'm commenting usual posts.

Look at the Help link bottom right of the comment box.

Thank you for pointing that link out. I loked and looked... and missed what was right in front of me.

And yes, the comments here on the Torah and New Testament have given me pointers towards how this should be done properly. Obviously the historical context is very useful for discussing why one set of rules or another was established, what was the spirit of the rule and what impact it had in contrast with the presilamic environment, or for commenting on the incendiary antisemitic fragments and how in fact their scope might be so narrow as to only apply to the Jews back then. Muslims, like Christians, can and will go out of their way to interpret verses in a way that favours their actual, current values or beliefs.

It is also interesting to see how the Qran builds upon the pre-existing narrative of the Torah and Gospel, but dismisses them as corrupted and altered by the Powers that Be (specifically the priesthood and ruling classes) to suit their own interests, and presents its own retelling of the events (when it bothers retelling stuff instead of cryptically, elliptically and confusingly mentioning a couple of names).

However, the Qran wasn't written all at once either, but it was written by one single man, in sporadic bursts, over the course of twenty years.

But what I want to study here are the bits of the Qran that are abot faith and the afterlife, not about rules which, all things considered, were remarkably sensible, coherent, cohesive and progressive by their day's standards. See the comments to the next post.

It is also interesting to see how the Qran builds upon the pre-existing narrative of the Torah and Gospel, but dismisses them as corrupted and altered by the Powers that Be (specifically the priesthood and ruling classes)

I always found it fascinating that Muslims believe this, yet it never occurs to them to ask whether the Qran has similarly been corrupted in the centuries since Mahmoud.

It's Muhammad, not Mahmoud :(. Even if I'm now an atheist, I still think he was a pretty cool guy, eh brought peace and social justice and considerable progress in gender equality for the time (women were upgraded from "cattle"/"comodity" to "eternal minors under tutelage", which from their perspective must have been pretty awesome) and doesn't afraid of nothing.

And yes, as for your question, Richard is right on the money, save for one detail.

I think the standard answer to this is that the text has been transmitted exactly, down to the last jot and tittle. In fact, the vowel marks of written Arabic were developed in order to make this possible. (The same is true of Hebrew and the Torah.) One can then ask whether the interpretation of this exact text has changed, to which the standard answer is no, for the last thousand years no new interpretation has been allowed (the so-called "closing of the gate of ijtihad"). In modern times, some Muslims are questioning this, but I don't think they're making much progress.

Actually, they are making a lot of progress. Some of it is due to many scholars and activists who are strongly motivated to thrust Islam into the future, such as neo-fundamentalist Tarik Ramadan, whom I rather like personally because while he has values that aren't "liberal" in the American sense of the word, he is very rational (insofar as that term can be applied in this context, "sane" would perhaps be a better word) and thorough and consistent about them. This is exceptional because many "liberal" muslim thinkers are better described as "contemporizers", in that they seek the prestige and approval of modern Western ideologies, and are ready to glaze over and ignore aspects of their religions for the sake of this admirative aping, while this guy does not give in one iota, preferring to go back to the texts at whom people have stopped looking, and separate the traditions that are labelled "islamic" from what is actually in the Qran, and dismissing the hadith that are most suspicious of being fabricated. For example, stoning adulterers, while thought worldwide to be an islamic law, is in fact in direct contradiction with the Qran, which prescribes flogging and public humiliation: while that is an extremely harsh punishment by modern standards, for the time it was extremely soft... perhaps people back then were dissatisfied with that. As for Mr. Ramadan, see, I don't agree with his values at all. That's part of why I abandoned Islam. But what I like of him is how honest and coherent he is about it: most Muslims only take half measures in the direction most convenient to them, including those that pretend to abide by the strict fundamentals. This is another reason why I abandoned Islam (as for Theism, I abandoned it for epistemological and empirical reasons which have nothing to do with morality or ethics, but rather with intellectual integrity).

But I digress. The matter of the question is that the Qran, Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence are under tighter scrutiny than they have ever been. Much work is being done, many questions are being boldly asked, and many are being answered. The internet, and the anonymity it entails, are of course decisive factors. If you want to learn more, I suggest the Wikipedia portal on Islam, which is very exhaustive and where I have learned the answers to questions no-one in my entourage had ever been able to answer, and Wikiislam which delights in bringing up the most controversial and polemic stuff, as you can tell from the main page.

Thanks for those references and context.

So, what have we found out yet, as of answering my question:

  • An enforced affective death spiral: the more you believe, the more you are threatened (and cajoled) into believing, including a Big Brother Is Watching You approach.

  • Lots and lots of repetition. It seems the Qran is one big huge mantra with a number of recurring submantras. God is All-Knowing, Almighty, or Forgiving formulae are repeated so frequently they are almost puntucation marks.

  • Dark Arts, i.e. actual fallacious or even downright paradoxical reasoning: Oftentimes it directly adresses disbelievers from both outside and inside the community. The beginning of the Second Surah boils down to: "People who don't believe in Me don't because I make them, so don't harass them by trying to convert them because it's pointless. They think they are so clever, but they are deluding themselves, and they will be punished." Pointing out the Insane Troll Logic to actual believers I know has only resulted in the long winded rhetoric version of "Buggered if I know".

Do you speak Arabic?

I've heard it said many times by Arabic-speakers that the Quran is an incredible book, unbelievably well-written and beautiful, and that its poetry is one of the factors responsible for the success of Islam.

I've also heard them say that no existing English translation is remotely as good. I would agree; I find it unbelievably boring, basically the same couple of lines about believe in Allah or you'll go to Hell over and over again (disclaimer: I've read chunks of it but not the whole thing). In terms of literary value I vastly prefer the Bible and some of the Hindu scriptures. But those have generally had better translators.

To get an objective opinion, you'd ideally need to hear that from Arabic-speakers who were never believers.

Yes, that would be it. The next best thing would be Jewish or Christian Arabs, of whom there are greater numbers than one might think. The Qran is repetitive. However, almost every time it says something that can be translated as "Allah is Great" or "All Mighty" or "All Knowing" or "Awesomecool", it says it in a different way, with different connotations: there's a lot of subtlety to it. However, yeah, unlike the Bible and the Torah wich are apparently prose, meant to be studied, the Qran is very much poetry, kind of like a gigantic mantra that likes to repeat himself. Think of Frank Miller (who once knew how to write awesomely), only with even more repetition and much less whores. Which isn't much like Frank Miller now that I think of it.

If you look at the site I have provided, you will notice that many transliterations are at your disposition. By clicking on them, they appear on the page at the corresponding Surah, and you can therefore compare and contrast them. The Qran is full of implied subtext and ellipses, and some of them try to bring it out. The result is more prosaic, but also more precise and informative.

Think of Frank Miller (who once knew how to write awesomely), only with even more repetition and much less whores. Which isn't much like Frank Miller now that I think of it.

That's a very impressive Dissimile. ;)

Argh! Losing Karma points already? I knew I should have stayed in bed today...

[-][anonymous]11y 0

The markup help is to the bottom right of the comment box.

I think you're begging the question there. I've read the Qur'an (in M.A.S. Abdel Haleem's English translation), and I found it the most unpersuasive religious writing I've ever seen. It consists almost entirely of exhortations to believe in the greatness of Allah, and promises of heaven for those who do and destruction for those who do not. Believe, submit, pray, and destroy your enemies -- and that's it. There are few exemplary tales (the only one I recall is that of Moses and Khidr), and no moral teachings beyond "believers are your friends, infidels are your enemies."

I haven't read the hadith, but skimming this site, they are mostly about rituals of cleanliness and prayer, and legalistic matters, expressed in the form of vignettes of Muhammad's life. And of course the whole method of determining the truth of anything by inspecting the exact words of people who lived and died centuries ago is absurd.

But I've never been a Moslem. What was it like, for you? Have I mischaracterised it?

I've read the Qur'an [...]]no moral teachings beyond "believers are your friends, infidels are your enemies."

What, all of it? Then surely you have forgotten, say, this fragment which is about morals and nothing else (and which I had to learn by heart in school). The bits that are purely about "join me and you will be rewarded, oppose me and you will be punished" are mostly of the Mecca era, when the Islamic community was weak and getting killed and tortured and ostracised and embargoed by everyone. Establishing creed and promoting hope and promising justice and retribution were a priority: it's kinda similar to the context behind the Book Of Revelation.

The bits written in Medinah were much more about social reform, new laws, rules, communty life... and are deemed to be much more boring than the Mecca ones by the sort of unreligious people that read the Qran for entertainment.

infidels are your enemies

Well, it was quite literally true in context. Infidels would kill you. Sometimes after horribly maiming you. Simply because you declared to believe in that new cult. That was even worse than joining the Communist Party back in the Red Scare. At least in the US you got a trial.

EDIT: Oh, and comically enough, many Muslims in modern day morocco are taking the opposite view: infidels are your friends, other muslims are to be avoided at all costs. Most Moroccans I know who went abroad actively avoid maintaining contact with local Moroccans, except for their closests friends from back home. I think we avoid each other mostly because we don't want to be submitted to scrutiny, judgemental remarks, gossip, and so on. With the Spaniards our private life is safe. Also, they don't expect you to marry them after having sex.

The edit is an interesting contrast to the link against back-biting. Did you intend that?

No, but now that you mention it, this is hilarious. I shall bring it up next time I meet some compatriots. However, in Morocco (and perhaps other Arab countries' defence), I will say that our society has been heavily molded by the imperialism-serving police states that appointed themselves our rulers. In Morocco everyone spies on everybody, and people are such gossips they might give you intel about their neighbours for free, just because. Everyone is corrupt, everyone is compromised, because otherwise there is no way to get anything done: if you want to live without ever bribing anyone you might as well go live in a cave, because even in a monastery you will need to bribe someone for some reason. Society and status revolve around money and crass materialism and small-minded hedonism AND bigotry AND religious puritanism. Hypocrisy and doublethink run rampant, and family men who pray regularly and berate you for smoking will go once a month to the red district to completely whore themselves up. The families I know that are genuinely, observantly, rigorously Muslim can be counted on the phalanges of one finger, and they tend to be gentle, compromising people who do not overlap at all with The Fundamentalist.

In the grim darkness of present Morocco, there is no justice, there is no freedom, there is only social warfare, and the laughter of thirsting pimps.

Now to lighten the mood, read the entire post in your hammiest voice. Don't worry, it's not nearly as GRIMDARK as it would seem. Humans... can get used to anything. But I am sure we could use some applied rationalism in sorting this mental mess out :)

BTW, a cookie to whoever acknowledges the GRIMDARK reference.

Warhammer 40k. This is a website packed to the gills with nerds; of course we'd get the reference. ;)

Here's an internet cookie.

What, all of it? Then surely you have forgotten, say, this fragment which is about morals and nothing else (and which I had to learn by heart in school).

My eyes may have glazed over a few times. :-) But here's my summary of the whole of that sura:

(1) Fear Allah. (2,3) Don't talk over the Prophet. (4,5) Don't pester the Prophet. (6) Don't trust enemies. (7) Believe. (8) Allah knows all. (9) Exercise justice among believers. (10,11,12) Let believers be as brothers. (13) Allah knows all. (14,15) Believe and obey. (16) Allah knows all. (17) Believe. (18) Allah knows all.

I mean, yes, those moral fragments are there, but they seem to take a lot of searching. Anyway, LW isn't really the place to discuss the relative merits of different religions, so I don't want to prolong this.

Well, it was quite literally true in context. Infidels would kill you.

All rather a long time ago. Now you can be killed for leaving it. I wonder if there are statistics on the number of people, worldwide, voluntarily converting to or from the various faiths (plus atheism)? Like measuring immigration and emigration as a measure of people's preferences among countries.

LW isn't really the place to discuss the relative merits of different religions, so I don't want to prolong this.

I wasn't aware that that was the way you saw this discussion. Why compare things that are equally false? But I understand that, from your perspective, the text is boringly monotonous. I had similar problems when reading the Bible. All those names one after the other, with no introduction, no context, no Character Establishing Moments, nothing... Well, at least you have just demonstrated that there is something strongly subjective about the appeal and power of the Qran. Then again, to return to the Obama example, his speeches will probably appeal and move much more the choir he is preaching to rather than his detractors, no matter how well done they are.

When you read Allah Knows All and variations, you do not feel the scrutiny of the LORD looking upon your shoulders, policing all your thoughts, knowing your decisions before yourself. It's like Big Brother Is Watching, except on a Cosmic Horror scale. And Big Brother loves you and is just and fair and merciful. My God a pattern for a Qran/1984/TheMatrix/CtuthluMythos crossover parody is forming in my mind. Now that would be an attack against Islam (and theism in general). AND it could be hilarious.

By the way

They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, "Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful."

I think I have heard something similar over here

Do not consider you are giving others a favour by accepting their arguments. The favour is to yourself. (paraphrased)

wonder if there are statistics on the number of people, worldwide, voluntarily converting to or from the various faiths (plus atheism)?

That would mean officially classifying citizens according to religion, which can lead to discrimination. No secular state would ever dream of doing such a thing.

When you read Allah Knows All and variations, you do not feel the scrutiny of the LORD looking upon your shoulders, policing all your thoughts, knowing your decisions before yourself.

You'd have to believe a little already. So, an affective death spiral. The more you believe, the more the Book terrorises you into believing.

Going off on a tangent though, that last phrase, "knowing your decisions before yourself" reminds me of Libet's experiments on detecting decisions before the person making them is aware of them. I started wondering what sort of Dark Arts-based religion could be constructed even out of rationalism.

That would mean officially classifying citizens according to religion, which can lead to discrimination. No secular state would ever dream of doing such a thing.

The UK isn't very religious, but the 10-year censuses do ask people to declare a religion. I think most countries' censuses do. It's something practically useful to know, even for benign purposes.

[-][anonymous]11y 0

That would mean officially classifying citizens according to religion, which can lead to discrimination. No secular state would ever dream of doing such a thing.

The UK isn't very religious, but the 10-year censuses do ask people to declare a religion. I think most countries' censuses do. It's something practically useful to know, even for benign purposes.

wonder if there are statistics on the number of people, worldwide, voluntarily converting to or from the various faiths (plus atheism)?

That would mean officially classifying citizens according to religion, which can lead to discrimination. No secular state would ever dream of doing such a thing.

You could use voluntary surveys.

There seems to be some data, but as far as I can tell it's pretty crappy and approximative.

The data are going to be blurry because what being a member of a religion means isn't well-defined.

Actually, in Islam it is: "professing" Islam is not the same as "believing" Islam: this is explicitly acknowledged in the Qran. When you make the profession of faith, that is what defines you as Muslim: you submit yourself to Islamic law's rule and protection, and become a member of the Islamic community with all the advantages and disadvantages it confers. However, only God knows if you believe or not (you might be deluding yourself).

Therefore, a Muslim is simply someone who claims to be one. That's as well defined and easy to test as it could possibly be, am I right?