In recent times, a common claim furthered by anti-Muslim Christians is that Muslims worship the moon. It is said that “Allah” refers to the moon-god. Prof. Judith Mendelsohn Rood notes that this “theory” is slowly becoming “mainstream” in Evangelical circles:
Christian apologists are claiming that Allah is the “moon god” of a pagan religion–a pernicious idea that is making its way increasingly into mainstream evangelical culture.
This moon-god lie originated from “Dr.” Robert Morey, a Christian Evangelist and professional Islamophobe. Says Morey:
Islam’s origins have been traced back by scholars to the ancient fertility religion of the worship of the moon god which was always the dominant religion of Arabia. The moon god was worshipped by praying toward Mecca several times a day, making an annual pilgrimage to the Kabah which was a temple of the moon god, running around the Kabah seven times, caressing an idol of a black stone set in the wall of the Kabah, running between two hills, making animal sacrifices, gathering on Fridays for prayers, giving alms to the poor, etc.. These were pagan rites practised by the Arabs long before Muhammad was born.
He goes on:
What religion today practices the pagan rites of the moon god? Islam! This explains why the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam. It is placed on top of mosques and minarets and displayed on hats, flags, rugs, amulets and even jewellery. Every time you see the Muslim symbol of a crescent moon, you are seeing the ancient symbol of the moon god.
Morey claims that to defeat Islam, the Judeo-Christian West must nuke the Kaaba in Mecca, saying:
First, as I wrote in my book, How to Win the War Against Radical Islam, the war against the Muslim Jihadists will be long and costly and will not be won until we bomb the Kabah in Mecca. Islam is based on a brick and mortar building that can be destroyed. They pray to that building five times a day, make a pilgrimage to it, run around it, kiss a black rock on the wall, then run between two hills and finally throw rocks at a pillar. What if that building, the Kabah, was destroyed? They could not pray to it or make a pilgrimage to it. The old pagan temple of the moon-god, al-ilah, is the Achilles’ heel of Islam. Destroy it and you destroy Islam’s soul.
Initially, we had decided that it was not worth our time to refute this silly “Allah is the moon-god” canard: Robert Morey is clearly a loon, and who would take him seriously? Unfortunately, as we found out, a lot of people. Indeed, anti-Muslim Christians regularly invoke the moon-god theory, such that it makes it impossible not to deal with this issue.
It would behoove us to first question the source of this moon-god theory: who is Robert Morey? Is he a credible scholar? The answer is an emphatic no. He is a Christian Evangelist and anti-Muslim polemicist: it seems fairly obvious that he has a strong bias. As is the case with other pro-Christian anti-Muslim ideologues who claim to be “scholars on Islam” (such as Robert Spencer), Morey possesses absolutely no credible academic qualifications on the subject of Islam.
Worse than this, Morey is a quack, claiming credentials that are outright fake: on his website, he claims that he has an honorary doctor of divinity (D.D.) in Islamic Studies from the Faith Theological Seminary located in Pakistan. Firstly, it should be noted that an “honorary degree” would mean that he never actually attended the school at all.
But if this wasn’t bad enough, the degree itself is fraudulent. When the Faith Theological Seminary found out Morey was claiming to have a degree from their school, they categorically denied that they had ever issued such a degree to him and ordered him to remove the claim from his site or face criminal charges. The school referred to Morey’s “degree” as an “illegal and fake degree”. (Morey did not remove it from his site and continues to claim the degree.)
Robert Morey also claims a PhD in Islamic Studies from the Louisiana Baptist University (LBU). This is an unaccredited institution that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). LBU is a “distance learning program” (teaching via the internet), with one alumnus boasting that “the LBU program may be completed 100% via distance learning”, while noting that “I did spend one week on campus”. In other words, the PhD is “earned” over the internet, not the classroom.
LBU is listed in Steve Levicoff’s Name It and Frame It?: New Opportunities in Adult Education and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by “Christian” Degree Mills as a “degree mill”, a term used to refer to groups that issue bogus degrees for a fee. Outside his book, Levicoff put it bluntly: “LBU is a joke.” Perhaps LBU’s website words it best: “LBU has both the experience and reliability to provide an efficient quality degree program tailored to your needs.” Indeed! This is a case of “Phd-for-a-fee or your money back.”
In 1998, the Louisiana Board of Regents (a government agency responsible for overseeing higher education) issued a unanimous ruling to deny LBU an operating license for its business education programs, and ordered the school to cease admitting students and cease advertising. LBU was later exempted based on the religious institution exemption and was allowed to operate as a religious institution.
Once again, things go from bad to worse for Morey when the matter is investigated further. Morey claims on his bio that he has obtained a PhD degree in “Islamic Studies”. The only problem? LBU does not offer any such degree. As the OC Weekly noted:
Morey also claims to have received a doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. Two problems: LBU is unaccredited by the United States government, which means no serious academy would recognize it. Then there’s this: LBU doesn’t offer a Ph.D. in Islamic studies.
The paper is absolutely correct: LBU does not offer any such degree. When OC Weekly asked him to comment on this “fib”, he altered his story:
When told LBU offers no program in Islamic studies, Morrey corrected himself and said his doctorate is in theology, with an emphasis on Islam.
Yet, Morey’s website and bio to this day continue to claim that he obtained a PhD in Islamic studies. Worse yet, LBU doesn’t even offer a doctorate in theology with an emphasis on Islam. Graduate degrees that the school does offer include “degrees of Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Studies, Psychology and Christian Counseling, and Christian Education.” As the OC Weekly sarcastically quipped about Morey’s imaginary degree: “He’s the first and only student to receive such a degree from the school.”
To put the nail in the coffin, there is no way Robert Morey could have studied any degree at LBU with an “emphasis on Islam” because a look at the school’s course catalog reveals that it does not offer a single course having anything to do with Islam. It is a school that offers courses about Christianity, not Islam.
The fact that Morey had to lie about having an “honorary degree” on the one hand and an online degree from a degree mill on the other hand shows how desperate Robert Morey is that people call him “doctor”. The only other degree Robert Morey could hang his hat on for the title of “doctor” is the “D.Min.” (Doctor of Ministry) in Apologetics that he claims he earned from the Westminster Theological Seminary.
However, it should be noted that the degree of “Doctor of Ministry” can be considered a “fluff” degree that is no way, shape, or form equivalent to or even comparable to a real PhD. As one astute blogger worded it:
It’s a match made in heaven.
On one side: a pastor who…needs respect and money and position.
On the other side: floundering seminaries struggling to stay financially afloat in a world of tight budgets and harsher spreadsheets. These seminaries accept (almost indiscriminately) anyone willing to put down the tuition money, no matter what their moral or intellectual character…
Welcome to the Doctor of Ministry degree. After three quick, easy, study-lite years, the pastor has attained his Doctor of Ministry degree. His doctorate degree. That degree gives the pastor a tremendous amount of respect now. He is Dr. Pastor now, a real somebody. More importantly, there is tremendous upside attached to his new title, and the ceiling on his earning potential has just been lifted. Dr. Pastor has clout now, or Dr. Rev. Pastor, if you will. Suffix Suffice it to say, he has respect, money, and position.
Following a familiar pattern, we find that the situation gets worse for “Dr.” Robert Morey when we find out that the Westminster Theological Seminary does not seem to offer a D.Min. in “Apologetics”. It is difficult to determine which of his “credentials” is more impressive: an “illegal or fake degree” from a real university or a fake degree from a fake university or a fake degree from a real university offering fluff degrees?
In any case, Morey quickly transitioned from being the receiver of fake degrees to the one giving them out, and founded the California Biblical University and Seminary, another unaccredited money-making “university”and degree mill. The “school’s” faculty page listed him as the only faculty member. Due to reasons that are unclear to us now (legal action?), the school has now disappeared…no doubt after Morey fleeced enough students of their hard-earned cash.
Robert Morey also served as a pastor at the Faith Community Church in California, where members of his church accused him of illegal and immoral behavior, including using church money for his personal expenses. Consequently, the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.) had “Robert Morey Thrown Out Of His Denomination” and forcibly resigned him in a unanimous vote by board officials, declaring that he had “abused his pastoral authority.”
Moriel Ministries stated that Morey was guilty of “gross and habitual financial impropriety” and “academic fraud with a bogus doctorate in Islam”, and mocked him for his outrageous claim that he has “read everything in the US Library of Congress on Islam”, which Moriel astutely points out would mean “over 7,000 volumes, monograms etc. to say nothing of the fact he cannot read Arabic.” His claim that he has read all of the books on Islam in the U.S. Library of Congress is reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s remark that she “reads all of them”, referring to newspapers.
After closing down his degree mill “university” and being thrown out of his ministry, Robert Morey seems to have in recent years fled the limelight to live away from the public eye. Nonetheless, his moon-god theory lives on, and has in fact been given a “second wind” thanks to the surge of Islamophobia in the last decade and due to the tireless efforts of a dedicated anti-Muslim contingent trolling the internet. All of them repeat the same lie that originates from Robert Morey, a fake doctor and quack.
Questioning Robert Morey’s credentials is not mere muckraking; rather, it is important for us to ascertain the unreliable originator of the moon-god theory. He is not just academically defunct and wholly unreliable; he is an intellectual huckster and fraudster of the highest order.
None of this is to say that Robert Morey is not considered a well-respected author, scholar, and authority in right-wing circles. Like other self-proclaimed “experts on Islam” used by the right-wing, Morey has no actual academic qualifications or credentials. This fact, however, does not stop the anti-Muslim bigots from relying on him and others like him. It is hoped, however, that more neutral minds will not be fooled.
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Before we begin dissecting Morey’s theory, a word might also be said of Yoel Natan, author of the cleverly titled book Moon-O-Theism. Natan’s book helped give the moon-god theory a second wind. It is on page III that we will turn to this topic.