Saturday, March 07, 2009

Theology—When Logic and Clarity Lose

There is, Dear Gentle Reader(s), in The New York Times today, a wonderful example of how, when need runs up against religious mythology, logic and clarity get lost in the conflict.

In an article about the success of a bank in Michigan to serve Moslem customers, appears this paragraph:

To distill and simplify some complicated theological and financial concepts, the basis of Islamic finance is Shariah’s forbidding of “riba,” which can be variously translated as usury or interest. Mortgage alternatives, which are the most popular financial product for Islamic consumers in the United States, essentially add what would have been the monthly interest into the purchase price of a home.

So, essentially, in order to “comply” with the stricture against usury/interest, the bank’s president needed

On the religious side…to appoint a board of Shariah scholars to certify the mortgage alternatives as “halal,” or religiously permissible. On the secular flank, he put months into persuading both state banking officials and his own board of the new products’ legitimacy.

The “interest” doesn’t appear, one must conclude, in the monthly statement, but it exists in the payment.  As long as it isn’t called interest, it isn’t interest—except it is—and it’s OK to make the payment. 

One looks askance.

If mere humans aren’t fooled by this word-legerdemain, how much doubt can there be that an all-knowing Being would be fooled?

Alas.  Logic?  Clarity?  Victims of theology.

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