First you're speaking about what you obviously don't seem to know.
I know a lot more than you think, it's just that I have an outside perspective, which is critical in being able to evaluate something objectively. Like with anything else, when you are too immersed into something, it becomes difficult to take an honest look at it, and religion is especially immersive and thus difficult to evaluate from an objective perspective when you are in it. Dismissing the opinions of someone giving you an outside perspective on a matter is never a good idea.
Second with all respect, Islam isn't Christianity or any other religion. Many principles in Islam do not apply at all to other religions.
Ohh, you'd be surprised how incredibly similar it looks from the outside. By the way, Christians would claim the exact same thing you do. In fact, I could probably take every word you wrote on this thread and simply change Allah for God and Muslim for Christian, and it would be really difficult to tell which is the original one. All religious folks claim there their religion has something unique, that their truth is deeper and more true, and that criticisms that apply to other organized religions don't apply to theirs, and so on so forth, but that is because they are too immersed in their religion and cannot take a step back and evaluate their religion the same way they evaluate others.
Third I'm not trying to make you sympathize with Muslims. We don't need anyone to sympathize with us, and you'll see that Islam will spread all over the world one day.
I don't need you to make me sympathetic to Muslim, I already am. I have many past and present friends who are muslims (and hopefully many future friends too!), and they are the greatest! What entitles you to say "us" in reference to Muslims? The "us" and "them" attitude is very dangerous. And as for "Islam will spread all over the world one day", well.., for one, you don't sound like the moderate you proport to be, and second, over my dead body it will! (hopefully of natural causes..;)
Who said that Islam only orders people to search for books?? I mentioned reading only as an example. Islam even tells us that God doesn't accept a Muslim if s/he believes in Islam by tradition, e.g. God doesn't accept someone who becomes a Muslim just becasue his parents are Muslims. In order to become a Muslim, one should believe by his mind first, not only by his heart. I told you that you may wonder, but Islam is based on logic and invites people to use their minds in order to know the goal we were created for.
That doesn't seem to be reflected in Muslim countries or in Muslim school in non-muslim countries. If Islam doesn't allow Muslim's to be born into the faith, then why does it count children amongst its ranks. Why is there any religious activities done by any minors? If Islam was a religion that you come to rationally, then why aren't the Muslim school entirely dedicated to producing the best possible rational individuals before introducing them to any material from the Qur'an? Isn't it in contradiction to your religion to teach any religious material to a young mind who is not yet equipped to judge it rationally. What if that child adopts Islam, without rational reasons to do so, wouldn't all his life be wasted, waiting for doom because he became a muslim for the wrong reasons. Should there be, instead, a test of critical thinking skills and skeptical reasoning before even allowing someone to be exposed to the Qur'an.
Evidently, the truth is, like other religions, Islam is not based on critical thinking and rational evaluation of evidence. And if, in Islam, as you say, the word "religious" and "rational" cannot be separated, then the problems run much deeper than I could ever suspect, it means Muslim never get educated in knowing what rationality means at all. Religions and religious thinking is based on doctrines, edicts, dogma, or other forms of "revealed truth" (and you examplify that over and over in your posts). Rationality is, by definition, the rejection of all such things, it is the idea that conclusions are only as strong as the body of evidence (and ensuing logic arguments) that have lead you to these conclusions (not the amount of evidence you gathered in defense of the conclusion), that excludes any kind of revealed truth or word of God or whatever else, because, for these things, the evidence is non-existent (or extremely thin), and the ensuing logic is irrelevant (logic arguments without supporting evidence is worthless).
I wonder what is the "evidence" you've based your statement on when you said:
"the Qur'an itself doesn't have nearly enough evidence to support any of its claims"
I am not the one claiming the Qur'an has any truth in it. You are. I have never seen any compeling evidence for any of the claims of the Qur'an, and believe me I have looked around. Even the actual evidence for the existence of Mohammed is very thin to say the least, and the main problem in this regard is that scholars are not allowed to search for evidence of Mohammed's existence because Muslim's consider it blasphemous to do so (especially in Saudi Arabia where you would need to conduct such studies), making such research a life-threatening activity (and the few that do it, do it under pseudo-nyms, and there have been a couple that didn't conceil their identity, they must now fear for their lives). But the fact remains, almost no hard evidence exists, and the evidence that does exist, contradicts the Islamic scriptures.
I don't need evidence that there is no evidence, there IS NO EVIDENCE! What else can I say, I can't talk about "nothing" forever.
I'll tell you a very small proof that should lead you to the fact that the Qur'an is the word of God: The Qur'an mentions the stages of development that a human being goes through inside a womb (starting from before it comes into the womb): "Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot congealed blood; then of that cloth We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!" [023.12-14]
Of course while the Holy Qur'an was sent to the Prophet Muhammad, Muhammad didn't have electricity, let alone devices that can monitor the development of a human feotus. So, how did he know those stages in their order? This means that the Qur'an is sent by the One Who created this universe and knows every single detail about it. This is only one proof.
I laughed out loud when I read this. Just like I did the first time I heard this, years ago. First of all, any embryologist can tell you that the account from the Qur'an is factually wrong, let alone being very vague. Second, this was knowledge that was known for centuries before the 6th century, by Greeks and other cultures in close contact with middle-eastern cultures. Finally, you don't need electrical or modern equipment to figure out the developmental stages of embryos. You can easily deduce the rough stages (at the very least, as vaguely as the Qur'an states them) just by examining embryos you can get your hands on from their dead pregnant animals, fallouts of miscarriages, etc. And that's how many cultures, long before Mohammed's alleged life, drafted early description of the process, which were much better that what is in the Qur'an, without claiming it can from any kind of a Deity, because none is needed to discover this. Here is a more lengthy debunking it this crazy "proof" you just put forth.
"In addition to that, the Qur'an is filled to rim with verses (almost every third verse) about how Allah hates disbelievers and how much He will enjoy burning and torturing them"
This is absolutely nonsese. Allah doesn't mention such thing at all in the Holy Qur'an. Where have you quoted that from?
Where have I quoted that from... uhmm... the Qur'an! Are you stupid or what? I tell you Book X is filled with nasty words, and you say "where is that from".. from Book X, you idiot. I even linked to an online version of the Qur'an, in English, with annotations and subject groupings of verses. Here is the link again, the "intolerance" section is especially telling. So is the compilation of good versus bad verse counts, the Qur'an contains about 1% of good verses, and about 8.5% of cruel or violent verses, and the rest is inconsequential story-telling (btw, for the Bible it is about 0.8% good and 4% bad, and the rest inconsequential story-telling).
However, since God is Just, He will send to Hell only those who deserve. Imagine that you worked, in your job, all day and night for a month, and your colleague always escaped and worked very little, then you come at the end of the month, and your boss gives you and him the same salary without even giving you a reward for what you'd done. How will you feel about that? You'd feel wronged if that happened.
Yeah, I would feel wronged. But Allah is not my boss! He doesn't exist, and even if He did, He wouldn't have any legitimate claim over my life. If I work at a company, I agree to do so because it's a mutually beneficial relationship for me and my boss. If I don't like my boss, I can leave, if my boss asks too much of me, I can protest, if my boss favors other employees who contribute less, I can express that concern to my boss, and he can change his ways. I am not a slave to anyone! And that makes a HUGE difference, and if you can't see that, you are blind.
It is completely irrelevant how "just" or "mercyful" or "powerful" a person or God is, if that person or God puts me in a position of absolute servitude to him, then that person or God is an evil #######, period. No good deed or good intentions can redeem him from such an atrocity on mankind. This idea of considering God to be great, just, mercyful, and benevolent, while at the same time require servitude to Him is absolutely disgusting and repugnant from a moral perspective.
I showed you the commandments told to the Muslim army by the Prophet Muhammad. These commandments do not exist in any army of any country nowadays, especially western countries. I don't want to get into the issue of the massacres done with the civilians in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Burma today by western armies.
There is something much better today, it is called the Geneva Convention. And there has been a long history of human rights charters and conventions of war, including many important documents that predate Islam, as well as independent conventions in other countries.
Now, are they always followed, no. Do armies go too far, yes. And Iraq and Afghanistan are horrible tragedies of modern times, with massive blunders and a corrupt national defense culture. The Vietnam war was also riddled with atrocities like that. So was WWII, and WWI before that. So was just about every war in history. It doesn't mean it is acceptable. We certainly have rules against it, but, unfortunately, people overlook them too much. But if you think that the stories about Muhammad forbidding his armies from doing such things were anything new, you are mistaken, the same kind of glorifying stories were told of many conquerors of the past, like Alexander the Great and Hannibal, this is just part of legend (e.g., "he was such a just king / leader" type of rethoric). And even if Mohammad was forcefully against his army committing atrocities, he certainly wasn't the first, or the last, and it would be naive to think his army followed that to the letter. And, after all that, as I said earlier, the actual few pieces of evidence of Mohammad actually tells a different story, which is that Mohammad was no more than a local warlord who had physical control of only a small region around Medina, but had enough political and trade influence to make a strong alliance with other warlords of neighboring regions, there is no evidence that any great war campaign was actually led by Mohammad (there were a couple by other warlords, no evidence that he participated in anything more than local battles). Most of the rest of the stories about Mohammad are just mythic story-telling, nothing more, at least, there is no evidence that any of it is remotely true.
If Islam was a religion of hatred and violence, then why do the Muslim scholars of the Arab world still don't order their followers to attack the other religioust groups in their countries?
Because Muslim scholars of the Arab world are not filled with hatred and violence! Stop trying to conflate Islam and Muslims, Muslims are not a perfect reflection of Islam, and thank goodness for that. I'm saying Islam is mixed bag, and is based on an incredibly violent, intolerant and cruel book. I'm not saying Muslims have the same characteristics, because they don't, and that's an empirical fact that I can never deny (and have no reason to). My point is that they are good despite their religion. Muslim scholars try to provide the best teachings they can provide, with what they have to work with (Qur'an), and they do a pretty good job at it, considering the amount of stuff from the Qur'an they have to ignore or explain away. The point is, they want to provide good teachings because they are generally good people with decent moral judgement, not because Islam is all good. The problem is, when bad people with nasty intentions are given a podium, they can read all sorts of nasty commandments from the Qur'an just as easily (if not more) as the good priests find good things to read from it. That's what a mixed bag means.
"Desparate people remain desparate, until you give them an ideology to cling to, then they can become murderers, or saviors."
Well, this proves the fact that Islam has nothing to do with terrorists' deeds. The desperate crusaders killed in the name of their ideas just because they wanted to. Extremism belongs to the person holding it, not the religion itself. If an extremist found one idea to follow, and that idea said: "Do NOT kill!", they would be able to change it and even ignore it and kill in the name of it!
Have you even read the sentence you quoted from me? If you see it as it proving Islam has nothing to do with terrorists deeds, then you must have read it wrong, because it says the exact opposite, in very clear, plain English. Desparate people are desparately looking for hope, some hope of a solution, of a better future either for them or for future generations, and they will easily cling to almost anything that seems like the promise of a better tomorrow, and the "Islamic Dream" ideology is exactly that, but it contains the poisonous ideas of absolute authority and "all means justify the end", because the end is supreme (Holy). If you agree with the "Islamic Dream", you will never be able to argue against the means that extremists choose, because their means are consistent with their ideology (yours is a position of passivity or cowardness w.r.t. to your ideology, which is very weak). Their desparate state of mind is merely fuel to burn to their means.
In the US for instance, the only way to keep the neo-nazi / white-power / KKK groups at a very low and powerless state of existence is to be in complete disagreement with their ideology (white supremacy) and all its aspects, all the time, and never accept such nasty ideas from reaching any level where it would be considered acceptable for a "moderate" person to say: "KKK guys are really bad, they shouldn't hang black people like they did, but it is true that white folks are superior, don't you think?". You would not consider one minute that a person saying that was on your side, against the KKK.
This is almost exactly the kind of position moderate muslims take when they attempt to condemn extremists' actions while at the same time preserving the "Islamic Dream" ideology (i.e., exactly the point of view you expressed), and it's an untenable position, because it is rotten at the core and stands on very weak grounds. And that is why the respond of the "moderate" Muslim world with respect to the events of the last decades has been very disappointing, because they put themselves in an extremely weak position, and that is dangerous for all of us (the whole 7 billion of us).
At some point, Muslims will have to choose: either, continue to put Islam on a pedestal and suffer from decades of surges of extremism at home and abroad, with all the inflammatory reactions it can cause in the West; or, decide to strongly condemn ideologies centered around a theocratic rule by Islamic edicts, and become secular and peaceful states where Islam can be practice in peace, outside of public affairs, laws, policies or politics.