We submit to whatever our Scripture teaches us, and indeed scholars do hold that the punishment for apostasy is not dependent on waging war etc. However, such a ruling needs to be understood together with its accompanying rulings, such as the need for an Islamic authority which will undertake the task of presenting the proof, clarifying the misconceptions and undertaking all the proper investigative procedures, without prejudice or injustice. In the establishment of this ruling, there is protection for the sanctity of religions as they are not to be toyed with, so that those who are manipulative and desire-driven do not obtain the means to advance their personally-motivated ambitions and objectives. Furthermore, in that which Allah has ordained, He has the perfect proof and argument, as well as the Ultimate Wisdom.
Many in the West have the understanding that 'faith' means to believe in something that one cannot prove. This is not the approach of Islam. In general, Muslims hold that there are very strong, rational reasons for them to believe in their religion. It is not simply a matter of blind faith. For example, the excellence of the Qur'an, its unquestionable historical authenticity and the numerous miracles related to it all point to this Book being a true revelation from God. So @Pygoscelis
's analogy about choosing to pretend or believe in a random mythical being is totally off the mark, as explained to him elsewhere. Before a Muslim is asked to override something found in his religion, there had better be very strong evidence that something is mistaken or unacceptable in the religion of Islam.
This is not true, in Christendom to become a heretic or apostate was not necessarily met with execution. When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity the punishment for apostasy was loss of civil rights (e.g. ability to take witness in court, gain inheritance, etc. CF http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01624b.htm
Until the 13th century torture was apparently not sanctioned by the canon law of the Christian church; about that time, however, the Roman treason law began to be adapted to heresy as crimen laesae majestatis Divinae (“crime of injury to Divine majesty”). Soon after the Inquisition was instituted, Pope Innocent IV, influenced by the revival of Roman law, issued a decree (in 1252) that called on civil magistrates to have persons accused of heresy tortured to elicit confessions against themselves and others; this was probably the earliest instance of ecclesiastical sanction of this mode of examination.
Jamaal Zarabozo writes,
Could God Legislate Death for Apostasy?
Many Christians, in particular, seem abhorred by the fact that Muslims could believe that God has legislated death for apostasy. This author has personally heard Christians claim, once again, that Islam must be some barbaric religion to believe in such a penalty. This attitude is very perplexing to this author. It is one thing to say, “We no longer believe in such a law” and quite another to say, “We do not believe in a God that would legislate such a penalty.” In the former case, the individual is simply turning his back on what may have been part of his religion. Such an approach is common for modernist Jews, Christians and Muslims. However, the latter approach clearly denies what is stated in their holy books. (Unfortunately, this is also not uncommon for modernists. However, many less-extreme Jews, Christians and Muslims do not allow themselves to go that far.)
An in-depth study of all of the relevant Biblical texts is well beyond what is needed here. Hence, only one or two verses shall be commented upon.
Exodus 22:20 reads, “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” Famed and widely respected Biblical commentator Matthew Henry had the following to say about this verse:
IV. Idolatry is also made capital, v. 20. God having declared himself jealous in this matter, the civil powers must be jealous in it too, and utterly destroy those persons, families, and places of Israel, that worshipped any god, save the Lord: this law might have prevented the woeful apostasies of the Jewish nation in after times, if those that should have executed it had not been ringleaders in the breach of it.
Numbers 25:1-5 reads:
1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.
Another passage, Deuteronomy 13:6-11 is also quite telling:
6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; 8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: 9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
2 Chronicles 15:8-19 has the law being applied even to the young among the apostates. The relevant verses in that passage are verses 12-13 which read,
12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
From the New Testament, one finds in Romans 1:20-32 that Paul approves of the death of idolaters, homosexuals and other sinners. This passage reads,
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
The above examples should be sufficient. The interested reader may further consult Deuteronomy 13:12-18 and Deuteronomy 17: 1-7.
Actually, as is well-known, the history of the official Christian church and many of its leaders on issues of this nature is very dark indeed. One did not need to be an apostate to be killed in the history of Christianity. Apostasy is to be distinguished from heresy, as is clear in the following passage from the Encyclopedia Britannica,
[Apostasy is] the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the faith, publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.
Two examples from the history of Christianity dealing simply with heretics—not apostates—should suffice here. The Cathars, a pacifist heretical group of southern France, were crushed. Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against them. Here is how two Christian authors described part of that crusade:
In 1209, Arnold Amaury, abbot of Citeaux, called for the collective slaughter of all Cathars in the town of Beziers. His motto, which has carried forth into modern expression, stated, "Kill them all, the Lord knows those who are his." Only a small minority of the town, perhaps five hundred, was made up of Cathars, but all the city paid the price for guilt by association. Twenty thousand were killed. Thus began the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Cathars in the thirteenth century.
Non-Catholics, of course, may respond to the above by putting the blood of those deeds on the hands of the evil Catholics. However, one should not forget Martin Luther’s ruling concerning the Anabaptists, another pacifist heretical group who had the audacity to have themselves re-baptized when adults. Martin Luther stated that such heretics are not to be tolerated and the only fitting punishment for them was hanging.
This approach is in compelling contrast to the legacy of Islam. Not long after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the caliph Ali had to face the crisis of the heretical group known as the Khawarij. Although he sent people to preach to them to correct their misunderstandings, his approach was that they were not to be physically attacked by the state as long as they did not commit any acts of violence against the Muslims. The Khawarij did become violent, and it became necessary for Ali to fight and defeat them. Afterwards, he was asked about them. He was asked if they were polytheists, and Ali replied that they, by holding the beliefs they held, were attempting to flee from falling into polytheism. When he was asked if they were hypocrites, he replied that hypocrites rarely remember and mention Allah. Finally, they asked him, “What are they?” He replied, “They are our brethren who revolted against us and we fought them only due to their revolting against us.”
In the conclusion of his article, he further writes,
It is beyond the scope of this article to touch upon all of the relevant points related to the question of the law of apostasy in Islam in the light of contemporary thought and attitudes. However, the above has been sufficient to demonstrate that there does not seem to be any logical, historical or philosophical argument that proves that Islam’s law of apostasy is unacceptable or irrational, especially when applied within the strict confines of the principles of Islamic Law.
The belief in the Islamic law of apostasy stems from the Islamic belief in God, the Creator. It stems from the belief that God has the right to lay down laws for His creatures and that, in fact, He is the best in laying down such laws. This should be considered logical by anyone who believes in God. Even though it can be considered logical, this argument is repugnant to many of the West, even those who believe in God. However, this fact has more to do with the West’s unique history than with the logic of the argument being made. The West experienced a period in which many were killed in the name of God and they also experienced a period in which they realized that their scriptures are not truly from God, due to their manifest contradiction with science. Both of these facts led the West to move away from “God’s law” to man-made laws. One, though, cannot derive “universal principles” from the experience of this small portion of human beings. In fact, those phenomena have no relevance whatsoever to Islam.
Thus, there is no logical reason for a Muslim not to trust in Islam’s scripture, the Quran, as being a true revelation from God.
Hence, there is no reason for a Muslim to abandon God’s law.
Similarly, there is no reason for a Muslim to stop believing in the fact that the best lawgiver is God Himself.
Therefore, there is no logical reason for a Muslim to stop believing in the Islamic law of apostasy as explained by the Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Taken from: http://www.zeriislam.com/artikulli.php?id=921
Muslims do not feel the need to neglect their Scripture just because we live in a 'contemporary' society. Moreover, this 'contemporary' society is one in which Western governments have systematically designed and implemented a programme of abducting and torturing suspected individuals, before imprisoning them without due process. Capital punishment is very much a part of many societies today - the United States being among the countries with the most executions. So, Sojourn, you have a lot of things to think about here. You'd be far better off to question your own religion instead of attempting to sow doubts using ours.