Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Muslim heaven/Christian heaven?

I've spent some considerable class-time over the last couple of weeks introducing my students to the essential beliefs and obligations (the famous 5 Pillars) of Islam.  One aspect of traditional Muslim belief is what is commonly regarded as the very male-oriented vision of heaven, where the promised rewards include dozens of houris (beautiful, nubile virgins) - the implication being, of course, everlasting great sex, at least from the male's point of view.  Many in the West are critical of, or mock, Islam on that score - and it surely runs counter to the modern Western liberal notions of equality, empowerment, and sexual liberation for women.

But as I was scrolling through my various news alerts this morning, I came across this essay from Christian mega-evangelist Billy Graham, about how "Some day, God will give us new, heavenly bodies"  - i.e., "bodies that will never wear out or get sick."  (Those of us familiar with the movie might think of this as the Cocoon version of heaven.)  But it struck me that this isn't entirely dissimilar from that often-reviled Muslim vision of heaven.  Of course, the Christian vision perhaps hasn't the sexual, male-dominant overtones inherent in the Quranic vision (although the Christian vision is populated with angels, including the great arch-angels - none of whom, to my recollection, were female).  I distinctly remember that, growing up in a devout Roman Catholic household and attending RC schools, I was told that in heaven our bodies would be perfect - and beautiful - and that there'd be no need for clothes.  On the other hand, the teaching was also that there'd be no sex, because sexual pleasures and desire would pale in comparison to the joy of being in God's presence.  Still, as a pubescent Roman Catholic teenager, the vision of being surrounded by beautiful naked females - and not having to feel any guilt in the experience - definitely had its appeal.  It certainly made me more intent on living - and dying - in a state of Christian grace, so that when death came, I wouldn't be cheated out of such a fantastic eternity.

In a close comparison of the Muslim and Christian visions, I suppose one could pick apart the possible parallels and decide that the Christian vision was more chaste.  But when you get right down to it, they perhaps aren't so far apart - and perhaps Islam-bashers could cut Muslims a bit more slack on this score.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Both religions appeal to men specifically. I don't see any women apostles. I think the "written word" of both religions is a reflection of male dominated societies.

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