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Published on: March 25, 2012
Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches

In recent years the king of Saudi Arabia has won plaudits around the world for promoting interfaith dialogs. Those efforts recently received a dramatic setback when the top religious official in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa earlier this month calling on the faithful to destroy all churches in the Arabian peninsula. The ruling came in […]

In recent years the king of Saudi Arabia has won plaudits around the world for promoting interfaith dialogs. Those efforts recently received a dramatic setback when the top religious official in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa earlier this month calling on the faithful to destroy all churches in the Arabian peninsula.

The ruling came in response to a request from a Kuwaiti legislator who wanted to know if under Islamic principles the government of Kuwait could ban church construction in the country. Citing what is said to be a deathbed request by the Prophet Mohammed as the basis for his ruling, the senior cleric in the Saudi religious hierarchy (Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh) found that under Islamic principles, not only should all new church construction be banned, existing churches should be destroyed.

This is not news in one sense; official Saudi policy has long banned the open practice of non-Islamic religion in the Kingdom. Other governments on the peninsula have other policies, and the small sheikhdoms are often more tolerant on a range of issues than the puritanical Saudis. The ruling has no legal force in these other countries, and their religious authorities often disagree with Saudi clerics on various points.

Nevertheless, after Christian websites reported a story which received little attention in the secular press, European religious leaders engaged in various high level exchanges with their Islamic counterparts spoke up. It has long been a sore point in these conversations that while predominantly Christian countries offer Muslim immigrants and visitors full rights of religious expression, including the freedom to build mosques, there is no reciprocity. Christians are widely persecuted and discriminated against across the Islamic world, and mob violence and murder is depressingly common in some countries. Other minorities are also routinely and systematically persecuted and mistreated. Members of the Bahai faith are frequently subject to persecution, and there are many Sunni countries that discriminate against Shiites.

While courageous voices do speak out against these practices, some religious leaders and political movements claiming to represent religious ideals aggressively promote discrimination and persecution as core Islamic values with deep roots in orthodox Muslim doctrine and practice going back to the times of the Prophet Mohammed.

It was not all that long ago in historical terms that many Christian religious leaders, including a long series of popes, taught that persecution of religious minorities and “holy war” was a religious duty. Even in the twentieth century a number of governments in Europe and Latin America restricted non-Catholic faiths in various ways with the Vatican’s overt or tacit endorsement. It was only with the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church accepted the concept of religious freedom as a positive right.

Not all Christian groups today are comfortable with full freedom of religion. Whether openly or behind the scenes, some churches (like the Russian Orthodox) have lobbied for laws that place various disabilities on aggressive, proselytizing forms of Christianity whose competition they fear. But despite a certain amount of chicanery and hedging in some quarters, broadly speaking the world of Christianity is more open to and accepting of other religions and the lack of all religion than ever before in its past.

Many and quite possibly most interfaith conversations are pretty mealy-mouthed and essentially useless. People engaged in these conversations often represent the more liberal wing of their respective religious traditions and they walk on eggshells in these conversations, working so hard not to say anything offensive that sometimes they don’t succeed in saying anything at all.

I’m not sure if this will contribute to interfaith harmony or not, but over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet a great many religious leaders and serious thinkers in both communities and while they may not say these things out loud or on the record, this is what, as far as I can tell, what many people (not all) in the two communities actually think.

Christians, especially in countries like the United States where the ideal of religious liberty has been an important element of Christian teaching for centuries, believe that the rise of religious tolerance in the Christian world is one of the signs that Christianity is true: believers are becoming more like Christ in his infinite compassion and profound respect and love of every human soul despite error and sin. Moreover they see the spread of tolerance and the repudiation of false ideals like “holy wars” (such as the Crusades, fought not only against Muslims but against heretics inside the Christian world) as signs that God is working in human history to bring us to a greater light and deeper understanding.

For many Muslims, however, the rise of tolerance in Christianity looks less like maturity and self confidence than like the senescence of a religion in decline. Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind. The rise in religious tolerance is the result of necessity — the churches are weak, the believers indifferent, and so Christians no longer have the inner conviction to stand up for their faith. Just as Christian countries tolerate a range of vices and practices that in the past, when their faith was stronger, they opposed (homosexuality, abortion, sexual immorality of all kinds, blasphemy and obscenity), so now they also don’t care very much about what religion people profess because their own faith doesn’t mean all that much to the shrinking minority that still has one.

Islam, these Muslims say, is a stronger faith, less subject to erosion by the forces of modernity and the neo-paganism of consumer culture. Islamic intolerance of religious error reflects a faith that feels itself to be true and is not ashamed or embarrassed to insist on its core values and its historic ideas.

Don’t hold up your flabby faith and your immoral, secular societies to us as examples to imitate, these Muslim critics say. You are tolerant because you are decadent, open because you have lost the will and the strength to defend yourselves and your ideas.

Christians tend to respond with the observation that Islamic societies have been less influenced by modernity because they are “primitive” and “backward.” Modernity originated in the Christian world because Christianity, much more than Islam, was open to science, free inquiry and free commerce than the traditionalist obscurantists of the contemporary Muslim world. (Protestants will often engage in a bit of intramural snarking here, alleging that Catholic Europe and Latin America got to modernity behind the Protestants because the Protestants were better at this stuff than the “superstitious” and “priest-ridden” Catholics. Much bickering then ensues, which we will ignore to get back to Christian-Muslim debate.)

Muslims often bridle here, pointing to the glorious traditions of Islamic scholarship and high culture at a historical period when literacy largely disappeared from the Christian west. Christians retort with the observation that this was a very long time ago, and the point about Islamic civilization is that it declined and didn’t recover — often because as they grew increasingly powerful and numerous, the Muslims suppressed exactly the Jewish and Christian element in their society that helped provide the stimulus for rich cultural life and intellectual exchange.

The Battle of Ager Sanguinis, fought during the Crusades in Aleppo.

Muslims reply to this by pointing to the devastating Mongol invasions which destroyed the flourishing high cultures of the Islamic world even as the Crusades from the west brought unparalleled brutality and destruction to the Mediterranean coast. Christians say the Muslims know nothing about the consequences of religious war and barbarian conquest: the successive waves of barbarians who destroyed the Roman empire and its Carolingian successor states were more devastating and longer lasting. Christianity has absorbed harder blows than Islam, they say, survived more invasions and more disruptive ones over a long time period and doesn’t whine about them today. Islam took a softer punch and went down for the count.

As for religious wars of aggression, the Crusades were an episode; Islamic wars of conquest against Christianity, Christians say, didn’t end until the late 17th century when the Ottoman Turks were finally stopped at the second siege of Vienna. And Christians, Christians like to say, are sorry about the Crusades with their massacres and atrocities. Muslims still celebrate their conquests and glorify religious aggression.

Muslims tend to roll their eyes at this point. Christians, they point out, have been busy for the last 300 years breaking up Islamic empires, conquering Muslims, subjecting them to discriminatory legislation and making them second class citizens in their own countries. French and Italian conquests in North Africa; Dutch and Portuguese conquests in the East Indies and elsewhere, the British Empire which aggressively attacked Islamic rulers from Nigeria to Afghanistan and Malaya. Now it is the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, the joint western support for the Jews in what for 1,000 years was Islamic Palestine, and forms of cultural and political aggression which seek to remake the whole world in the image of the decadent, post-Christian west.

Can any other religion, Muslims ask, show such a record of aggression, conquest, exploitation and discrimination as those who claim to follow Jesus Christ?

Christians note at this point that the Muslims are simultaneously attacking Christianity as passive and weak while denouncing its brute strength and innate aggression. Surely only one of these charges can be true? Christians would read the history of the last three hundred years in a different way.  Because of its openness and dynamism, Christian civilization gave birth to new ways of organizing human society and new technologies and economic institutions and ideas. These brought the Christian world to global predominance, but Christian individuals and cultures were slow to learn how to use their good fortune humanely and well.

Today the extent to which the Christian world struggles to come to terms with the evils of the colonial and imperial expansions of the past, the slave trade, the displacement and massacres of native peoples in so much of what is now the English-speaking world and many other errors and crimes testifies to a new-found civilizational maturity.

Muslims are likely at this point to point out that the Christians are also trying to have it both ways: they are using both their record of global conquest and their contemporary renunciation of conquest to claim civilizational and religious superiority. Can both of these claims really be true?

Whirling dervishes outside of Rumi's tomb in Turkey.

These discussions can go on for a long time, especially when the participants are even tempered enough to keep talking rather than stalking out in disgust. In my experience they generally end up close to where they begin. Muslims assert that the resistance of Islam both as a system of doctrine and as a living community of believers to the corrosion and discords of modernity points to the clarity of its message and to the superiority of Islam as a religion that can flourish in the contemporary world.

Christians riposte by saying that the unique role of Christianity in bringing modernity into the world evidences the work of the Holy Spirit through the living body of Christ that is the Christian Church. Despite all the shortcomings and abuses of the process of technological and social development of the last 300 years, the healing of the sick, the end of slavery, the emancipation of women and the establishment of genuine religious tolerance and freedom of conscience represent fundamental triumphs of the human spirit that the Christian faith has brought to the world.

Muslims disagree: that Christians can’t disaggregate the good and the bad from their own history (conflating for example commendable advances in medicine with the deplorable rise of sexual promiscuity and the commodification of women into one positive historical movement) just shows what an inadequate platform Christianity provides for serious historical thought and social action.

I’ve grossly oversimplified here; there are Muslims more sympathetic to modernity and Christians more critical of life in the modern west than the two voices I’ve tried to channel. Mustafa Akyol and some of the Islamic intellectuals based in the Sufi traditions of a country like Indonesia, for example, would have a quite different line of discussion.

But the fact remains that for many Christians, attempts to suppress religious liberty (especially for the poor workers from the developing world that the Gulf oil states import to do the work that their own citizens will have nothing to do with) indicate an unformed religious conscience and testify to a terrible spiritual blindness. And for many (though certainly not all) Muslims, these policies are exactly what the world’s most noble religion commands as the will of God on high.

From Via Meadia‘s Christian perspective, the bishops have done the right thing in speaking up about the treatment of Christians on the Arabian peninsula and in the Islamic world as a whole. We can acknowledge that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is doing his duty as his conscience instructs, and accept that he speaks out of a rich and vibrant tradition and invokes a religious authority that has deep roots in the world’s second largest religion. But with all due respect, the Grand Mufti has made a moral mistake, and that is never a good thing.

show comments
  • Brett

    Islam, these Muslims say, is a stronger faith, less subject to erosion by the forces of modernity and the neo-paganism of consumer culture. Islamic intolerance of religious error reflects a faith that feels itself to be true and is not ashamed or embarrassed to insist on its core values and its historic ideas.

    Since most Muslims in Western Countries are non-practicing, I suspect that’s only true in the more heavily Islamic countries.

    Christians retort with the observation that this was a very long time ago, and the point about Islamic civilization is that it declined and didn’t recover — often because as they grew increasingly powerful and numerous, the Muslims suppressed exactly the Jewish and Christian element in their society that helped provide the stimulus for rich cultural life and intellectual exchange.

    What was most devastating was the rise of the Ash’ari School of Thought, which was anti-rationalist, anti-science, and just generally anti-intellectual (they were even skeptical of causality). This unfortunately displaced the Mu’tazilism ideology, which held reason as supreme.

    Muslims disagree: that Christians can’t disaggregate the good and the bad from their own history (conflating for example commendable advances in medicine with the deplorable rise of sexual promiscuity and the commodification of women into one positive historical movement) just shows what an inadequate platform Christianity provides for serious historical thought and social action.

    I’d say that would be pretty ironic coming from the Muslims, whose religion explicitly defines women in inferior terms, and most of whose traditional cultures treat women as “property” to be traded between men.

    In any case, I think the world could use more sexual promiscuity and much less religious fanaticism. People don’t kill others in the name of sexual promiscuity.

  • Indi

    Christians have become a weak seact due no strong leadership, the American & European secularisim is to be blamed for this, I salute the muslims for they place their faith above anything else, its time for other religions also to follow suit

  • Indi

    Will the Saudis dare utter anything without the tactic nod from US, since the US are their masters… what do Obama & all the secularists have to say

  • Mrs. Davis

    Somebody should translate The Cousins’ Wars into Arabic. These guys need to learn history.

    Through our silly “little wars” that mislead our enemies into mistaking our disinterest for decadence we encourage them to ultimately go a step too far, unleashing an unrestrained Jacksonian reaction.

    I fear and suspect the step too far will be a nuclear attack on a western city or an EMP attack on an entire region. Then the Christians will sing Onward, Christian Soldiers and the non-believers Over There with much greater frequency. I hope they are prepared for utter destruction.

    btw, the listing of vices and practices that are tolerated by modern Christian societies should be led by no-fault divorce on demand.

  • Peter

    So much for those who say that if only Israel caved in to the Palestinians peace would break out throughout the region and all other problems would easily be solved.

  • Charles R. Williams

    It is a fruitless exercise to unravel 1350 years of inter-communal conflict. A look at the foundational texts of both groups makes it very clear that Christianity has an easier path to religious freedom than Islam.

    The New Testament is apolitical and for the first 250 years Christianity was the persecuted faith of a minority with no political aspirations. The conversion of Constantine posed difficult and unanswered questions. If the emperor accepts the truth, what policy should the state take vis-a-vis false religion? I think that Dignitatis Humanae from Vatican 2 represents a final and nearly universal consensus among Christians that puts the primacy on the right (and duty) of the individual conscience to seek the truth and embrace it freely. The rights that a false religion enjoys are based on that right of individual conscience.

    Islam is political in its essence and from the beginning. The initial conquests were motivated, from the religious side, by a mandate to impose God’s law on the world through conquest. Conversion was in the beginning a secondary issue and was in certain respects discouraged. This lead to a system where certain religions are tolerated within narrow boundaries and under restrictions that would eventually result in their disappearance. At times Islamic societies were more or less tolerant; at other times religious minorities were violently persecuted. Ultimately it is up to Muslims to determine what their history and foundational documents mean for them today. I don’t see how they can get to Dignitatis Humanae in a way that is consistent with them, either in an individual intellectual sense or collectively (there is no Muslim pope to call a council).

    The secularists have nothing to offer here and the short and appalling record of the last century gives us no grounds to hope that they will protect any freedom other than perhaps sexual license.

    The religious freedom that we enjoy is the product of a Western Civilization founded on Western Christianity.

  • Jim.

    To the Christian point of view, the fact that non-Christians exist in this world is a tragedy that must be countered by any means allowed by Christ.

    No forms of coercion are among these allowable means.

    While Professor Mead congratulates himself on his enlightenment and enjoys the cocktail parties of glamorous Queens, he should remember that Christ (who declared Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and His nature as the exclusive path to God) has committed him (WRM) to make disciples of all nations. It profits his conversational partners nothing if he overly respects their religious points of view at the expense of their souls.

    Christ has taught us that we should love our neighbors and wish every good thing for them, and that faith in Him is so precious it is worth giving up everything else in this life — even this life — for it; this gives us a clear indication of what comparative eternal value non-Christianity has (none), and what the only possible answer can be to the question, “What is more important — Keeping silent out of respect for non-Christianity, or sharing my faith with the people I meet in this world?”

    These principles must be kept firmly in mind in any discussion like this; respect for “freedom” is too often used to excuse a real lack of confidence that many Westerners have in their historic religion.

    With that in mind — Prof. Mead, could you put together some Holy Week essays, like the essays you put together for Advent? In retrospect, it was kind of a pity that we didn’t have them for the whole of Lent.

  • Anthony

    WRM, quite a channeling of Christian/Muslim historical point-counterpoint vis-a-vis “Truth In Religion.” Yet, until the nineteenth century, religion was not a subject of academic study or research (if there were teachers and students of religion they did their teaching and studying in the great universities of the Middle Ages, in the parochial schools of Christian and Muslim countries – not to mention Yeshiva schools).

    So for me at one level, there is an effort at apologetics issuing from tone of essay – an effort by a given religious faith to argue for its exclusive or superior possession of the truth as against all other competing faiths (i.e. Islam in this instance). Therein, lies conundrum at bottom of essay’s theme – from point of view of the apologist’s own faith, those with differing beliefs are usually called infidels (thus church destruction). Nevertheless, Via Meadia makes correct call: there is a moral mistake.

  • Jim.

    @Brett-

    People don’t kill each other in the name of promiscuity? Are you aware of the major cause of murder-suicides in this country?

    Nature kills people in the name of promiscuity, too. All these happy-clappy arguments for promiscuity ironically leave out the Clap.

  • Kenny

    If and when the Christian flame is re-lit, Islam could be extinguished in short order.

  • Mrs. Davis

    This paper is persuasive in its argument that our problem is not so much with Islam per se, as with the political institutions running the lands conquered and administered by the Arabs.

    Unfortunately, as my comment above alludes, the Anglo-Saxon/Scots-Irish world has a tendency to make its enemy the personification of evil when it goes to total war. It would be wise for us not to be confused about our enemy’s identity. It was not Catholics, it was Royalists. In our Civil War, I believe we have taken a long time to heal because we confused southerners with slaveholders.

    As the paper implies, our enemy is Arab style political institutions, not the Muslim faithful, though there is lots of overlap. The problem is that it is a lot easier to target the faithful than to change the institutions. And in our ire we will not bother to make the distinction.

    Secularists, Christians, Muslims; they are all humans. They all fail to meet fully their goals all the time. That’s life. It’s not fair and it’s why religions persist.

  • Affan’Gul.X

    Regardless of whether a religious sect believes it

    “is a stronger faith, less subject to erosion by the forces of modernity and the neo-paganism of consumer culture. . . . intolerance of religious error reflects a faith that feels itself to be true and is not ashamed or embarrassed to insist on its core values and its historic ideas.”

    How are we to distinguish this from ordinary bigotry and intolerance? Are we to accept this just because it has the name “religion” attached to it?

    How are we to distinguish this idea from the cocksure belief in Nazism and Communism? Is it any less deadly, is it any less dangerous to Mankind because it is cloaked in the blue smoke of “religion.”

    Are we to tolerate their persecution because their “faith believes itself to be true?”

    The fact is that Islam has shown exactly ZERO good faith towards the rest of the global religious community and continues to practice barbarous persecution of others on an unprecedented worldwide scale.

    The fact is that Islam is a threat to word peace and to the ultimate freedom for Mankind.

    Islam should be resisted and defeated until it is a religion practiced only in [comment abridged as at this point it goes over the limit of what VM allows].

  • daninkansas

    Boy you sure went on a long time about church banning. After 2 paragraphs, I hazard a comment. We should embrace this enlightened concept, only in reverse of course. Then we should conquer their lands, etc. etc. We are in a pickle.

  • Kolya

    Another way to consider the practical merits of religious cultures is to examine immigration patterns – how many Christians emigrate to Muslim lands? A confident religious culture

  • Kolya

    A confident religious culture is not afraid of competition.

  • don

    Well, from my neo-pagan secular point of view, most of the arguments, from both sides, boils down to the fallacy of arguing from power and authority. Be that as it may, I’m sure once the Muslims finish with the church, temple, and synagogue they’ll come after the Museum of Natural History. It’s in their nature. Alas, stopping that rampage requires brute force and killing in this world and letting the gods sort out their destination in the other world.

  • Dave4321

    Shouldnt we try to find the real reason that he wants to burn churches. It’s probably because of Muslim alienation in France, or the war Afghanistan, or Israel. He’s probably just a lone cleric anyway. We need to understand him not condemn him.

  • Kris

    Thanks! This helps tide me over until Pacquaio-Mayweather.

  • Kris

    “Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa”

    How do your Muslim interlocutors feel about the fact that to many Westerners, “fatwa” has become a risible term?

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    Jim @ 7

    “respect for “freedom” is too often used to excuse a real lack of confidence that many Westerners have in their historic religion.”

    Which “historic religion” is this? The one used to justify slavery, the oppression of women, the beating of children, and the rampant persecution of “heretics”?

    Religious understanding in the west has evolved hugely, especially since the enlightenment and especially since the 19th century.

    You may wish to turn the clock back until before the enlightenment… I’m hoping many more of us wish the Islamic World would set it’s clock a few centuries from the deathbed of their Prophet.

  • Brett

    @Jim

    People don’t kill each other in the name of promiscuity? Are you aware of the major cause of murder-suicides in this country?

    Yes, it’s called “mental illness”.

    Nature kills people in the name of promiscuity, too. All these happy-clappy arguments for promiscuity ironically leave out the Clap.

    No, that’s just an argument for using condoms.

  • Jim.

    @Brett #1

    “This unfortunately displaced the Mu’tazilism ideology, which held reason as supreme. ”

    So supreme, in fact, that in the 8th century Mutazilism set itself up an Inquisition (known too well to contemporaries and not nearly well enough to moderns as Al-Minha) which tortured and killed devout Muslims who refused to recant their beliefs.

    Some of the survivors founded the virulently anti-Western schools of thought we see today, in the philosophies of Al-Qaeda, among others.

    “Enlightenment” is no blushing innocent. Down through the years it has perpetrated crimes greater and more ghastly than the 130 years of “religious” conflict (a.k.a. the Hapsburg Bid for Mastery and the Birth of Nationalism) between Luther’s 95 Theses and the Peace of Westphalia. The Western intellectual stereotype of Christianity as “the major cause of war” comes from a selection bias that focuses on spinning certain details of narrow range of history far beyond their real significance.

    In the last century alone, Western Rationalists killed ten times as many people as Christianity ever did. For people who kill their fellow men for ideology, Darwin is far more popular than Jesus, and Marx more popular than Mohammed.

    So spare us the “If we just went with Secularism, everything would be fine” lies. The fact is that humanity has made most of its progress under a culture that combines Christian morals and scientific endeavors.

    Leave out either one, and we fall back into barbarism.

  • Tom

    @ptet: How about the same religion used as justification to stop that sort of thing.

  • Brett

    @Jim

    “Enlightenment” is no blushing innocent. Down through the years it has perpetrated crimes greater and more ghastly than the 130 years of “religious” conflict (a.k.a. the Hapsburg Bid for Mastery and the Birth of Nationalism) between Luther’s 95 Theses and the Peace of Westphalia.

    More ghastly than a thousand years of intellectual oppression? Or the devastation of the New World populations, and their enslavement in the name of Christianity? Or how about the greatest act of intellectual vandalism in history, when the Spanish conquistadores burned every Mayan book they could get their hands on?

    Or how about the Thirty Years’ War, in which a third of the German population died (with larger majorities in the cities dying)? Even World Wars I and II never approached that devastation?

    In the last century alone, Western Rationalists killed ten times as many people as Christianity ever did. For people who kill their fellow men for ideology, Darwin is far more popular than Jesus, and Marx more popular than Mohammed.

    It’s the percentage of a society’s casualties that matter more than the absolute numbers, which are going to be larger because there’s a much larger population. As I said, one-third of the German population dead in the Thirty Years War alone.

    So spare us the “If we just went with Secularism, everything would be fine” lies. The fact is that humanity has made most of its progress under a culture that combines Christian morals and scientific endeavors.

    Wrong. The greatest advances were made when Christianity steadily lost any claim to control over Truth (such as the past two hundred years). Areas where Christianity’s dominance on public morals and belief have continued to fade are the richest in the world (Europe, coastal United States) or are rapidly becoming the richest in the world (East Asia).

  • Andrew

    What’s wrong with these people?

  • a nissen

    WRM says:
    ” It has long been a sore point in these conversations that while predominantly Christian countries offer Muslim immigrants and visitors full rights of religious expression, …attempts to suppress religious liberty (especially for the poor workers from the developing world that the Gulf oil states import to do the work that their own citizens will have nothing to do with) indicate an unformed religious conscience and testify to a terrible spiritual blindness across the board”

    Brett’s sampling at #24 is just a small portion of Christianity’s blindness prior to the modern period:

    “Or the devastation of the New World populations, and their enslavement in the name of Christianity? Or how about the greatest act of intellectual vandalism in history, when the Spanish conquistadores burned every Mayan book they could get their hands on?”

    However I disagree with his conclusion that sterilizing power into plain “economics,” e.g. IMF, World Bank, Chicago Boys, etc., etc. is any great advance.

    That said any truth in that last statement in no way justifies ” Fatwa” of any kind. What it might justify is other countries modeling a less “spiritually blind” course of action,e.g., expelling the citizens of any country practicing a fatwa on churches.

    This of course gets in the way of “economics,” so what else is new? A possible turning point on the order of that of the Neolithic period, at in the humble opinion of Spencer Wells—Pandora’s Seed, the Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, 2010.

  • Tom

    @Brett: Let’s compare World Wars I and II to the Thirty Years’ War: The two wars combined, at least in Europe, lasted ten years–in other words, 1/3 as long as the Thirty Years’ War lasted.
    And what “thousand years of intellectual oppression?” Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, Anselm, and others would beg to differ.
    And those areas where “Christianity is fading” have cultures heavily influenced by Christianity.

  • Jim.

    @Brett:

    Thank you for providing me with so many easy targets to shoot down.

    – The Holocaust, Holodomor, and Cultural Revolution were far more ghastly than any overwrought charges of “intellectual oppression” you can come up with.

    – The fate of New World societies would have been much the same whoever first crossed the seas; they were devastated by faceless, motiveless disease. As for what the Conquistadors did to them — it was no worse than what the Indians did to each other, and it was Christian monks that spoke out against it.

    – I’m surprised the Mayan issue bothers you… it was books of Mayan religion that were destroyed, after all.

    – Claiming that a “percentage of a society’s casualties” is the proper figure of merit is a horrible idea. In larger societies each individual has less value? You’re mad. Dangerously so.

    – Germany’s high casualties of the 30 Years’ War were more a function of the fact that neither the Swedish nor the Hapsburg armies in the area had anything like an adequate supply base in their home countries, and had to survive by eating the Germans out of house and home — NOT any ideological motivation. The atrocities I outlined above, on the other hand, were a direct, logical consequence of secular ideology.

    – As for your understanding of the culture of Christian Democracy (and its fundamental importance in the construction of the Blue Model) in Europe, that is (to be charitable) lacking. Your total ignorance of the high level of conversions to Christianity among the intelligentsia of East Asia is profound.

    The fact is that industrializing Victorian England and the prosperous America of the mid-twentieth century and before, Christianity worked hand-in-hand with science to build a safer, more prosperous, more stable, and more advanced society than anything that had ever come before.

    Europe is in decline. That decline is hand-in-hand with its secularization. The idea that it should continue down this route, or that America should follow it, is dangerous idiocy that needs to be opposed wherever it crops up.

    You should not get into arguments like this with the level of understanding of world history and current trends you display, unless you’re willing to be a sort of “FAQ” – simply a convenient vehicle to respond to Frequently Held Leftist Delusions.

  • WigWag

    “Islam, these Muslims say, is a stronger faith, less subject to erosion by the forces of modernity and the neo-paganism of consumer culture. Islamic intolerance of religious error reflects a faith that feels itself to be true and is not ashamed or embarrassed to insist on its core values and its historic ideas…Don’t hold up your flabby faith and your immoral, secular societies to us as examples to imitate, these Muslim critics say. You are tolerant because you are decadent, open because you have lost the will and the strength to defend yourselves and your ideas.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Paradoxically the Muslims who cleave to the point of view outlined by Professor Mead are probably right. Establishing a new religion is hard; maintaining its role in the world for centuries is even harder. Competition for religious preeminence is not for the faint of heart and everything in history suggests that the ability of a religion to compete for the hearts and minds of the devout is quite a bit more about the willingness to use vicious means that it is about a desire to spread “good news.”

    Abraham was a radical and his willingness to obey the deity’s insistence that he remove himself from Ur of the Chaldees was a revolutionary act; so was his son’s willingness to slay Abraham’s grandson if that’s what the deity required. The G-d of Moses was willing to perpetrate genocide on innocent Egyptians to insure that his chosen people could flee from Egypt and Moses’ successor, Joshua was willing to follow his G-d’s instructions to literally wipe out every pagan tribe who got in his way.

    Suffice it to say that if instead of Abraham, Isaac, Moses and Joshua the ancient Israelites had been led by the ladies of Hadassah, the congregants of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue or Rabbi Michael Lerner, the chances that the Jews would be around today are pretty small. Jews still exist in the contemporary world because Judah Maccabee was an obsessed, semi-deranged tyrant who brutally killed Jew and gentile alike if they dared to engage in behavior that he was sure was blasphemous. Had Judah Maccabee merely been an ancient version of a modern day Alan Dershowitz would Judaism have survived? It’s doubtful.

    While the Christian world may have dominated Europe for more than fifteen hundred years, it pays to remember what it took to get Christianity off the ground during the Roman era. How many early Christians were thrown to the lions for their refusal to renounce Jesus? How many saints were butchered? How many early Christians were crucified or burned at the stake because promoting their religion was the most important thing in their lives? Would Christianity have survived until the time of Constantine if it was modern day Presbyterians and Methodists who were responsible for establishing the religion? Would Christianity have survived if today’s National Council of Churches was the governing body of early church? Would the Protestant Reformation have survived if it was Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rowan Williams who were its stewards instead of Martin Luther and John Calvin?

    Would Islam have come to dominate the Arabian Peninsula and much of the rest of Asia if it had been the gentle Sufis who were charged with spreading the religion instead of the warlike and brutal Mohammed? Would the Caliph have defeated Hussein at Karbala if his army had been manned by the dervishes pictured in Professor Mead’s post?

    It seems to me that the Muslims that Professor Mead mentions have a point; where ever religion is practiced “hot” it is thriving. Religious settlements in the West Bank come to mind as do the ultraorthodox communities in Jerusalem. Protestantism in Africa comes to mind as does Catholicism in Latin America. Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia comes to mind as does Shia Islam in Iran. When religious passions decline, religiosity comes to resemble a new corpse that grows cooler by the minute.

    In his post, Professor Mead mentions two Jewish apostasies, Christianity and Islam but he neglects to mention the last; liberalism. It seems to me to be a self-evident truth that liberalism is every bit the faith that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are and like Christianity and Islam it is a proselytizing faith. While Judaism, Christianity and Islam were born in the Middle East, liberalism was born in Europe but it was converted successfully from an idea into a reality in the United States.

    Our founding fathers were every bit the revolutionaries that Abraham, Moses, Paul, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Mohammed were. They were motivated by the same passionate intensity and they were willing to sacrifice everything.

    Whether the West prevails in the latest round of conflict with Islam that has come to be interminable depends in large part on whether the United States is willing to lead the liberal world into battle both metaphorically and literally.

    It seems to me that there is little question that the Islamic World is itching for a fight. If the bloviating left, captured as it is by politically correct multiculturalism leads the fight, than the battle is already lost.

    What we need is the courage and conviction of our founding generation. “Give me liberty or give me death” and “Don’t tread on me” both seem like appropriate calls to action.

  • Gary L

    Brett is like:
    In any case, I think the world could use more sexual promiscuity and much less religious fanaticism. People don’t kill others in the name of sexual promiscuity.

    Brett: There’s this ancient poet of the Greek persuasion who goes by the name of Homer: He wrote some poem (can’t think of the title off-hand) about a queen named Helen who cheated on her old man and ran off with this other guy named Paris, and that set off some kind of rather substantial Greek military response.

    On a smaller scale, we could also mention Shakespeare’s Othello, Bizet’s Carmen, and Kander & Ebb’s Chicago…….

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    The dominant Sunni sect in Saudi Arabia, the Wahabi, regard Shia Muslims as infidels. They also — I hope I have my facts straight here — have been known to burn their Korans. In any case tolerance isn’t their strong suit.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Jim does a good job against Brett. Thanks.

    WRM wote:
    “Today the extent to which the Christian world struggles to come to terms with the evils of the colonial and imperial expansions of the past, the slave trade, the displacement and massacres of native peoples in so much of what is now the English-speaking world and many other errors and crimes testifies to a new-found civilizational maturity.”

    I suppose that is one way of putting it. I prefer to think of it in terms of redeeming evil, of taking evil fruit to make something good. Thus what is capital if not the accumulated crime and sacrifice of centuries, plus interest. Yet it is also the material foundation of our liberal institutions and of a high standard of living which, instead of being based on the servitude of the many in the interests of the few, can be enjoyed by the many as well as the few. What an achievement!

    I would disagree with WigWag about the essential usefulness of violence and intolerance for the propagation of religious beliefs and ideas at least as it relates to the figure of Abraham (whom I admit is unique). My reasons are layed out here. I would be glad to discuss it with him privately. (luke.lea@gmail.com)

  • Tom

    @Jim:

    In Brett’s defense, his definition of percentages helps deal with the issue of how many people you have access to–for instance, a man who orders the killing of one hundred members of his own four hundred member tribe is probably psychotic, while the man who orders that one hundred members of his forty million member nation killed may just be executing murderers.

  • Kris

    Jim@28:

    Claiming that a “percentage of a society’s casualties” is the proper figure of merit is a horrible idea. In larger societies each individual has less value? You’re mad. Dangerously so.

    Masterfully played! I’m still chuckling.

  • Brett

    @Jim

    - The Holocaust, Holodomor, and Cultural Revolution were far more ghastly than any overwrought charges of “intellectual oppression” you can come up with.

    I’ll weight them against the Inquisition, the frequent persecutions of the Jews, the massacres of non-Catholic groups before the 16th century, and so forth.

    - The fate of New World societies would have been much the same whoever first crossed the seas; they were devastated by faceless, motiveless disease. As for what the Conquistadors did to them — it was no worse than what the Indians did to each other, and it was Christian monks that spoke out against it.

    Christian monks spoke out against it, but that doesn’t change the fact that they explicitly used Christianity to justify their conquest.

    - I’m surprised the Mayan issue bothers you… it was books of Mayan religion that were destroyed, after all.

    Religion, history, astronomy – they weren’t picky. Since you didn’t actually counter the point, I’ll take that as a concession on your part.

    - Claiming that a “percentage of a society’s casualties” is the proper figure of merit is a horrible idea. In larger societies each individual has less value? You’re mad. Dangerously so.

    I’d say it’s a better gauge of the impact than the actual number killed. One-third of the German population perishing in the Thirty Years War is far more devastating than anything we saw in World Wars I or II.

    - Germany’s high casualties of the 30 Years’ War were more a function of the fact that neither the Swedish nor the Hapsburg armies in the area had anything like an adequate supply base in their home countries, and had to survive by eating the Germans out of house and home — NOT any ideological motivation. The atrocities I outlined above, on the other hand, were a direct, logical consequence of secular ideology.

    Oh, so now we’re quibbling over historical details instead of making broad ideological accusations? I could point out then that the Nazi ideology was a mix of mysticism and nationalism, and could and did frequently appeal to Christianity (Hitler instituted Christian prayer). I could also point out that Communism is not the same as Secularism, anymore than “Democracy” is the same thing as the French Revolution.

    Your total ignorance of the high level of conversions to Christianity among the intelligentsia of East Asia is profound.

    What, in Vietnam and Korea? I’d like some numbers, and I’ll add that this doesn’t explain either China nor Japan.

    Europe is in decline. That decline is hand-in-hand with its secularization. The idea that it should continue down this route, or that America should follow it, is dangerous idiocy that needs to be opposed wherever it crops up.

    Europe is still quite rich, and the richest, most advanced countries in Europe are not coincidentally some of the more secularized ones (such as the Northern European countries).

  • Jim.

    @WigWag-

    You really nailed it this time. :)

    Please also consider the foundational role that overt, “hot” Christianity played, coming to the defense of liberalism when it was most threatened. Think about Eisenhower’s unashamed piety on the eve of D-Day. Think about Washington’s celebrated attitude of prayer at Valley Forge. Think about Lincoln’s meditations on the hallowed effort of the Union soldiers. (One might even think that God Himself smiled upon their efforts.)

    The fact is, as long as liberalism does not reject Christianity, Christianity is the best friend and surest ally liberalism has, against existential challenges ranging from tyrannical Monarchy at the time of the Revolution to Naziism and then Communism in the 20th century.

    Perhaps it was inevitable that fissures should appear, when it seemed in the late 20th century that there was no one left to fight but each other; but this world is too interesting a place for that to be true for long.

    Liberalism, industrialism, democracy, and scientific inquiry, all practiced within the bounds of Christian morality, is the best path to peace, prosperity, and all the good things that we wish our civilization to provide.

    We depart (or decline) from that path at the peril of all we hold dear.

  • Jim.

    Nailed it, except for this part…

    “Competition for religious preeminence is not for the faint of heart and everything in history suggests that the ability of a religion to compete for the hearts and minds of the devout is quite a bit more about the willingness to use vicious means that it is about a desire to spread “good news.””

    This is inconsistent with the portion of your comment about the early Christian Church. There, you accurately pointed out that the early Christian Church was willing to face vicious means, not use them.

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    Tom @ 23

    I said Christian religious understanding has evolved. It has. In the West, it’s no longer religiously acceptable to beat our kids or women or keep slaves or burn heretics.

    Some people – like Jim & WigWag it seems – want to turn the clock back to some mythical time when Christianity imaginarily solved all problems. Apparently butchery and book-burning are ok if they are done in the name of Christianity, but not if they are done in the name of any other ideology.

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    Jim @ 36

    The fact is, as long as liberalism does not reject Christianity, Christianity is the best friend and surest ally liberalism has, against existential challenges ranging from tyrannical Monarchy at the time of the Revolution to Naziism and then Communism in the 20th century.

    Doesn’t that work both ways? Without “liberalism” the Church would (and did) support slavery, women not having the vote or even the right to hold property, children being beaten regularly, etc. etc.

    Liberalism, industrialism, democracy, and scientific inquiry, all practiced within the bounds of Christian morality…

    You keep talking about “Christian morality”. That as is exists in the West is a cultural, evolving thing – very different now that it was, for example, at the time of the American Revolution, when slaves were owned, women didn’t have the vote, and children were beten regularly.

    We depart (or decline) from that path at the peril of all we hold dear.

    If you reject all that “liberalism” has done for the world, where would that leave you?

    You wouldn’t be using the internet, for a start.

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    Jesus may have told his followers to “go into all the world, making disciples of all nations”, but he also told them to knock the dust off of their sandals of any community that refused to welcome them. It seems to me that the second precept applies, at least in the case of Saudi Arabia, and perhaps to a considerable extent in the rest of the Islamic world as well. If they don’t want Christians around, then leave them alone, and leave the door wide open for their unwanted native Christians to find refuge on our shores.

    Just because they are not like us doesn’t mean that we have to become more like them. We believe in religious liberty, so we should continue to uphold, even for the Muslims who are among us. But every single one of them should be made to understand when they set foot in the US that this is a land of liberty, and that pluralism and toleration are the rule here. If they don’t like that, then they don’t have to be here, there are places in the world that are run the way they want it.

  • C. moss

    Thats exactly what Hitler thought. Hope we’re not to Poland yet, because we taught the fascists their error, but what a cost! We’ll teach the Islamists the same lesson, but hopefully less of a price.

  • Boyd

    “Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind. The rise in religious tolerance is the result of necessity — the churches are weak, the believers indifferent, and so Christians no longer have the inner conviction to stand up for their faith. . . . Don’t hold up your flabby faith and your immoral, secular societies to us as examples to imitate, these Muslim critics say. You are tolerant because you are decadent, open because you have lost the will and the strength to defend yourselves and your ideas.”

    As one who has struggled for decades at broadening the reach and success of Christian Evangelism I have to say I don’t think I have ever met a fellow evangelist who would disagree with a word of this.

  • Kevin Stroup

    I love reading the comments by the navel-gazers. While they sit and engage in pointless semantic arguments, the toxic totalitarian ideology called Islam butchers and conquers with abandon. We in the West are soft and decadent. Real men, the kind who care enough about themselves and loved ones, would treat Muslims the way Comanche Indians treated white settlers who invaded their territory. 18,000 + attacks since 9/11 alone by Jihadist and we still try to understand them. Stinks of cowardice. Young Western allied men in the 1940s did not try to understand Nazis, they tried to kill them.

  • http://ex-lefty.blogspot.com/ Jeff Mitchell

    Comparing open and closed societies is a tricky business. I would argue, for example, that we learn about moral transgressions more readily in Christian societies which value public confession and repentance — pedophilia being and obvious example. In contrast, Pedophilia has been reported by troops returning from Afghanistan to be rampant there. So to say empirically that Christian societies are more decadent is to ignore the fact that we don’t and perhaps will never know just how morally decadent Islamic societies are. The continued practice of slavery in Islamic cultures may be another example of this.

  • Wendy

    “People don’t kill others in the name of sexual promiscuity.”

    There are some in the pro-life movement who would strongly disagree with that point.

  • Rich K

    If given the opportunity and government sanction every religious faction of any stripe would demand adherence to its rules and practices. History is replete with how far they go and thank providence ONE country put a stop to it by and large.

  • Mark J

    There’s really no debate even as Prof. Mead gives us one here. People across the world have voted with their feet. Come to the Christian nations. Life is much, much better there.

  • gringojay

    Koran in Arabic is the “be all & end all” for Islam.
    One has to accept it even if don’t “know what’s in it.”

  • Bob from Ohio

    “While they sit and engage in pointless semantic arguments, the toxic totalitarian ideology called Islam butchers and conquers with abandon.”

    They mainly kill themselves. They conquor nothing.

    Including 9/11, a major war and occupation of Irag and a minor war and occupation of Afghanistan, US deaths are still under 10,000.

    Muslim deaths are at least 200,000. Probably more.

    A war with Iran is almost inevitable at this point and that will result in even more Muslim deaths.

    We can “naval gaze” because we are light years stronger and are killing with abandon ourselves.

  • Allen Mitchum

    If the Saudi regime was weak, this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, their influence in the region is growing by the day, thus this type of mindset and rhetoric takes on new meaning and importance.

  • Sardondi

    “You are tolerant because you are decadent, open because you have lost the will and the strength to defend yourselves and your ideas.”

    And this benighted, arrogant attitude, coupled with Islam’s resurgent hunger to subjugate the West (if not the entire world), makes a military holocaust between Christianity (West) and Islam (East) a virtual certainty.

    Unless, of course, the imams are correct and the West is indeed so decadent and spiritually corrupt that it will gladly accept slavery if that choice means survival.

  • Georgiaboy61

    Re: “We can acknowledge that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is doing his duty as his conscience instructs, and accept that he speaks out of a rich and vibrant tradition and invokes a religious authority that has deep roots in the world’s second largest religion.” Dr. Mead, you usually don’t bend to politically-correct winds, but here you do. The entire premise of your essay is incorrect. Islam, dealt with in your piece as a religion similar to the other monotheistic faiths of Judaism and Christianity, isn’t similar to them at all. Islam is more accurately described as a totalitarian/authoritarian system with religious components. In the west, we have separation of church and state; there is no such thing in the Islamic world, esp. in the fundamentalist Middle Eastern Muslim nations. Regardless of where a believer lives, a Muslim’s life is entirely dictated by the teachings of Mohammed, the Koran and the Haddiths. Islam’s reach is comprehensive; not only in the religious sphere, but into the social, economic, political, diplomatic, military, cultural, legal and economic ones also. Personnel life is also subject at all times to the dictates of Islam – what one may do, who one may marry, how and if one is to be educated, and more… all fall under Islam. Sharia law and jihad, which have no modern non-Muslim counterparts, are duties expected of all members of the umma.

    This coloumn isn’t up to your usual high standard. Please remove the blinders from your eyes….

  • R.C.

    Eh, going back and forth citing each side’s arguments is an endless retwisting of a Gordian Knot.

    Why not cut through the whole mess with a simple observation?

    Islam is not factual. One of its foundational claims is that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and historical traditions originally contained information which affirmed the Quranic/Islamic telling of the events of ancient history, but that these were dishonestly changed and corrupted by later redactors who thereby taught the “lies” which Jews and Christians now believe. (E.g. Which child, Issac or Ishmael, was the child of promise of Abraham, and whether Jesus made claims of divinity.)

    So, there’s a solid assertion of fact by Islam, and one which is pretty critical to the Muslim faith, and one which can be verified or refuted on a purely historical basis through archaeology, text analysis, and the like.

    And it has, of course, been refuted. Jesus did claim divinity, Issac was the relevant kid, Jews never called Ezra the Son of God, and so on.

    Moreover, the Quran and associated traditions are a hodge-podge of material borrowed from Christianity and Judaism, assembling everything that’s most welcoming to the ears of a 6th century Arab listener, ignoring anything counterintuitive to that same listener, and subtly altering the whole fabric, introducing forcible religious conquest and dhimmitude in order to support Mohammed’s Shaka-Zulu-style ambitions.

    It is, in short, much like what the Book of Mormon would have been had Joseph Smith been interested in crafting his imaginary prehistory to support conquest instead of polygamy.

  • Boyd

    “People don’t kill others in the name of sexual promiscuity.”
    “There are some in the pro-life movement who would strongly disagree with that point.”

    Those are comparable neither in kind or scale. The deluded people who killed abortion doctors (9 total in recorded history) thought incorrectly they could stop the killing. Promiscuity never entered the picture. As opposed to an ideology that has been piling up body counts in the hundereds a week for decades. You want to express outrage direct it towards those responsable not towards a Chrisitian faith whose evils don’t even move the needle. Ya Ya, I know, the Crusades. Right.

  • Boyd

    “People don’t kill others in the name of sexual promiscuity.”
    “There are some in the pro-life movement who would strongly disagree with that point.”

    It’s interesting that people criticize those that really pose no threat to defend those that do. Put another way, maybe Christianitie’s relative innocence might be clearer if we changed our minds about keeping videotaped beheadings off the table for those who criticized us.

  • sestamibi

    Disclaimer: haven’t read through the comments to date, so what I say might be redundant.

    “Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind.”

    True enough, but as Philip Jenkins has pointed out in his work, it is gaining rapidly in Third World locales, and in a much more muscular form that is quite willing to resist most forcibly Muslim aggression, as well as the squishy relativism of Christian west (see schisms within the Anglican community for example).

    Furthermore, Christianity is growing faster than Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, so this isn’t over by a long shot.

  • Narr

    I wish I could claim to be the originator of this one (who knows, maybe I am), but we’re only asking for more trouble every time we intervene militarily in the Islamic world with our battlecry: We’re Infidel Perverts And We’re Here To Help You!

  • http://whiskeysplace.wordpress.com whiskey

    All this suggests that Christians and Westerners do not belong in the Muslim world. Their worldviews and ours are incompatible.

    And conversely, Muslims do not belong in the West. The Toulouse murders, are emblematic of Muslims in the West. They believe, that they are stronger, because they have the will to kill little children, and soldiers at ATMs. That is the true face of Islam, entirely consistent with how it is practiced in places like Saudi Arabia or Indonesia. There is a pretty direct line for calling for the destruction of Churches in Arabia to killing a three, five, and eight year old Jewish child by a gunshot to the head.

    I don’t care who is morally right. I could care less. My only practical concern is not getting shot in the head myself. I can’t change to being non-White, or non-culturally Christian. I don’t want to live in Saudi Arabia, neither do I want it moving HERE.

    Let Muslims be Muslims. Practicing the odious (to my culture) things they do: honor killings, female genital mutiliation, polygamy, and the rest. Let them do it … in their own countries. Let us stay out of theirs, as much as possible (the Gulf being the one critical exception as the world runs on oil), and let us keep them out of the West.

    No Muslims in France, three Jewish kids and one Jewish man would be alive today. And yes that is where we are headed. Muslims don’t even believe the same basic cultural assumptions of the West (formed from the religious wars of the 1600s) that it is better to have limited toleration than constant grinding jihad. You can’t take the Jihad out of Islam, as Mr. Mead has just pointed out.

    So why have Muslims here? You’re just begging for more Toulouse Jihads.

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    WigWag @29:

    “Our founding fathers were every bit the revolutionaries that Abraham, Moses, Paul, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Mohammed were. They were motivated by the same passionate intensity and they were willing to sacrifice everything.”

    Fair enough. But right now I’m more worried about certain other passionately intense people, who seem willing to sacrifice pretty much everyBODY (including themselves and their loved ones) for the sake of a god who to all appearances loves nobody and nothing, other than his own unappeasable “righteousness.” I’m also worried – as I hope to show – that whatever these folks have come down with may be contagious.

    “If the bloviating left, captured as it is by politically correct multiculturalism leads the fight, than the battle is already lost.”

    Amen. I can’t see how any present shade of multiculturalism is of the least use against the religious nihilists I tried to describe in my previous paragraph. Indeed I can’t imagine any TWO modern social forces that, combined, are more corrosive of the sort of NATIONAL and fraternal cohesiveness we Americans need to remain both a nation and a free (i.e., not overweeningly policed and surveillanced) society. Unless, of course, one wants to throw in two other forces provenly good at making countries dysfunctional: Corporate and enviro-nihilism.

    But to me something far worse than any academic or Federally-mandated multiculturalism has been our past roughly 40 years of multicultural US foreign policy. The vast subtleties of which, to my simple mind, mostly boil down to the following question: Can one’s economy – or even one’s geopolitical agendas – EVER be too tightly enmeshed with the those of China, Saudi Arabia and Mexico?

    Anyhow, here’s what I’d really like to say:

    It may be that every religion, and so by implication every religious experience, has in it two phases, or modes, or “sides.” A “Sauline” phase – fearful, self-dependent, unrelenting, insatiably and punishingly angry at our own and others’ imperfections – and a “Pauline” phase – unutterably grateful and graceful for what we’ve received, unshakably aware of how that reception alone is key to any further perfecting – and hence, much of the time, so beside ourselves with joy that we’re wholly unable ever to say ENOUGH about our experience of forgiveness, or to give others ENOUGH reason for a similar hope of their own.

    But if I’m right, then it seems to me that a good many, perhaps even the great majority of us today are either stuck in or have reverted to a “Saul of Tarsus” religious mode. Maybe not nearly so much in our dealings with each other – families, friends, fellow-congregants, etc – but almost certainly in our efforts to project our faith into the social, political and economic arenas. But that’s true – if in one degree or another we’re all “Saulines” nowadays – may I suggest that, whatever other uses this approach may have, it is hardly the best way to garner the best from either our religions, our communities, or even our own human nature?

    After all, at the PRACTICAL core of most of the world’s great religions is not how thoroughly we impress our doctrines upon others, but how well we manage to love those others. (And yes, I’ll grant you there may be exceptions to this rule among the faiths – not to mention exceptions TO the exceptions; but are those who embrace them most zealously being most consistent, or most hypocritical?) My point is that even the soundest doctrinal rigor is not exactly a SUBSTITUTE for loving one’s neighbor. Although the latter may prove an impregnably sound way of living the doctrine. Both of which points I fear that, in our modern zeal to (re-)establish religion as the basis of political constituencies, parties and even armies, we may be in grave danger of forgetting. Yes, even here in the West. And not just the Islamists among us.

    In any case, assuming our already hot religions continue to heat up politically and militarily, I must confess: I’m alarmed for the political futures of all of us everywhere. And that quite regardless of how much growth, prosperity or techno-miraculous wizardry we succeed in generating. In short, I’m at a loss to see just HOW our big, busy, explosively heterogeneous societies are going to remain not only conciliable, but even governable, at our present rate of religious warming. Apart, that is, from the interposition of some religiously harsh, no-nonsense, and ultimately intolerant (“But you morons left me no CHOICE!”) dictatorship. A dictatorship that I suspect will be a global one at least de facto, if not de jure. And while I can imagine all sorts of corporate and other man-made persons being uproariously happy with that arrangement for quite some time, I can also picture a good many other persons, of the God-made variety, becoming equally miserable in very short order.

    Not, mind you, that we humans should EVER let a reasonable chance at happiness stand in the way of an irrational pursuit of wealth, power and glory (or ever have, or that matter). But still in all . . .

  • Jack

    Gee? Ya think?

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    A lot of deranged comments here, and some good ones too. The range is wide.

  • Boyd

    “I don’t care who is morally right. I could care less.”

    I certainly hope you could care less because not caring about right and wrong is just plain weird. People who don’t care about the morality of life are usually called sociopaths.

  • Jim.

    @Boyd-

    I think you missed the point about who was killing whom.

    Abortion could well be considered people killing other people in the name of sexual promiscuity, or at least in the name of making sex unnaturally consequence-free.

  • sara

    guys you missed something that this speech is from one man and do not represent all islamic view
    the good and evil view is in all humans
    jusha christian islamic
    all these call to pray to one god
    this is the most important we all brothers and sisters
    and about islam treating women like objects
    this is not true
    i am christian myself and i live in islamic country they i helped me so many times
    and they treat their wives very will since they protect them from the other people eyes
    by making them wearing proper clothes that make people not speak bad mouth about them

  • sara

    people let us say if you want to tell someone to believe in story
    will you tell him all of it from the beginning or leave trace to interest him to hear more
    this is the way that humans mind works
    god tell us first not to lie or kill
    then he gives us the holy books as in arrange that can make humans understand (Jewish then christian then Islamic)
    we are all brothers and sisters
    we all from one father and mother called Adam and Eve

  • John S

    The Bible and Christian principles rightly applied create a USA, religious freedom is a pillar of society and freedom of speech to critique and even mock is embraced, equal rights for all is fought for and established.

    The Quran and Islamic principles rightly applied create countries that end up 100% Muslim, if you critique you are dead if you mock you are tortured first, unequal rights for muslim men are implemented.

    “All religions are the same, they’re bad”. Please take this bogus anti-intellectual nonsense to declare in Arabia. Have a nice life.

  • http://www.callingmuslims.com CL Edwards

    I am a ex Muslim an ex Salafi Muslim to be exact we use to sit in the Mosque and listen to live streams of this shaykh every weekend almost.

  • A Edgar

    As a Christian I can take comfort in the words of my Lord: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, …”. John 18:36

    Whoever used or uses violence in Jesus’ name is not his disciple, just a religious fanatic that didn’t know Jesus and whom Jesus didn’t know.

  • Ali

    Dear brothers and sisters in humanity. Ali ibn bi Talib, the cousin and son in law of the Prophet of Islam said in his letter to his governor in Egypt: “Remember, Maalik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have; they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you.” This can be read at the United Nations.

    The Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia is called Wahabism founding on the teachings of ibn Taymiyya and are very distorted and have nothing to do with Islam but they refer to the same Quran, which they read in their own way, calling upon Allah with their very narrow-mindedness making Him a terrible God and not the MERCIFULL LORD OF THE WORLDS He is and claiming to love the Prophet, but in fact killing his offspring and urging people to do so even now a days.

    The major sects in Islam, Sunni and Shia, do not like the Salafis. The Fatwa against churches was condemned by authorities of the Al Azhar Univeristy in Egypt, the biggest Sunni University in the world as well as by Shia clerics.

    Wahabis are Terrorists!!!, whereas the Quran invites people to a joint word. They want Christina places of worship gone while in the stat of the Prophet Jews and Christins lived under protection of the Islamic state even paying less tax than the Muslims and having no duty in joining in warfare!!!

    Wahabis are Terrorists!!! They tore down the graves of the grandchildren and the wives of the Prophet ( after the first passed away he had several to tie the relations of the tribes together and restore PEACE in Arabia) claiming that the Prophet forbade building structures over graves where in reality God say in Sura Al- Kahf in Verse 21 that the building of structures, better, even Mosques is allowed.

    Wahabis are Terrorists and they only consist a minority in the Islamic world whereas the vast majority of Muslims seeks to live in peaceful COEXISTANCE with our brothers and sisters in Humanity.

    Due to OUR FAILURE in exposing that ignorant behavior we failed to portrait an adequate picture of Islam. No wonder people are afraid and Islam phobia exists. Please FORGIVE and don’t judge us by those TERRORISTS.

    In his first ever public sermon the Prophet told people to greet each other with PEACE, eat together and establish relationships with God.
    May Peace be upon you

    (please forgive my lack of English as I’m native German speaking)

  • Egypt Steve

    Religious war is an illusion.

    Christians and Muslims have been at war with all sorts of people for the entire history of their respective religious traditions. When you go to war, you come up with justifications, and you come up with any sort of rhetorical devices you can in order to denounce the enemy.

    When you go to war against a co-religionist, religious justifications are not the first thing that leaps to mind. You come up with other reasons, and other ways to demonize the enemy. When you go to war against people of another faith, however, justifying the war in religious terms is an obvious rhetorical tool to employ.

    True enough, there can then emerge a feedback loop, through which rhetoric comes to influence policy. But in general wars start because somebody wants something that belongs to someone else. Usually the “what” is more important than the “whose” except at the rhetorical level. If you doubt it, explain why the Latin Crusaders just happened have time to sack Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land, and explain why many more suicide bombs go off in mosques than in churches.

  • Hyman Rosen

    The important thing to remember is that no gods exist, not Jesus, not Allah, not Yahveh, not Vishnu, none of them. Societies which cling most closely to their gods are clinging most closely to lies. Sooner or later, those beliefs will lead them to fatal error. Only societies which have mostly abandoned their gods and turned to science can ultimately prosper, because only with science can the true nature of things be determined. That is why Western society prospers, and why Republicans must be fought with every fiber of our beings.

  • Heron

    Christianity doesn’t declare religious wars in the West anymore because it lacks the power to do so; not because it is the “true religion”. Indeed, in those part of the world where Christianity still holds the passions of its believers, like Sub-Saharan Africa, and no strong government to check its excesses we continue to see the same sort of religious violence this article decries in Muslims. Religious violence isn’t about creed or dogma, both of which are largely irrelevant to believers; it’s about the relative power of religion in a society. Strong, stable governments that need not rely on religion to keep the loyalty of their people will defang religion through the peace and prosperity they create. Weak, unstable governments that must rely on religion to keep their people quiescent will be unable to oppose it, and unchecked the passions religion calls out will run bloody riot.

    Explicitly Christian wars were quite common in and coming out of Europe, until ~ a century after the Reformation when people started to say to themselves, “wait a minute; I really don’t like having my relatives roasted over open fires and fed to dogs, or stuffed into sacks, beaten, and tossed into lakes”. We “Westerners” turned away from passionate religion because of the horrors of it, and when we did so we turned to Reason. That’s what the Enlightenment was all about, and the societies we live in -successful, prosperous, internally peaceful, less violent than their predecessors- are the happy result.

    To the author, and the rest who would argue that Christianity made the modern Western world, and in particular, propagated the concept of religious toleration, I can only shake my head. If, perhaps, you meant it was so responsible by teaching us all the true depths of savagery religion can call out in human beings, then you might be right. If your argument was that things like the Saint Bartholomew’s Days Massacre, the various anti-Hussite Crusades, the sack of Munster, the Low Country Wars, the English civil wars, Cromwell’s anti-Catholic terrorism in Ireland, Cromwell’s suppression of the Kirk in Scotland, the rank brutality of the 30 Years’ War, the Albigensian Crusade, and the rest of their ilk soured the West on religion thus leading us to create the peaceful, more secular societies we now live in then perhaps I’d agree with you, but obviously this article is just yet another example of vain self-congratulation and alien-bashing on the part of historical illiterate Christians, granting their own fanaticism plaudits for social developments it actively resisted.

  • http://None William

    This does very little to aid anyone in feeling Religious , today.
    It is easier to destroy than it is to create.
    Will any ramblings of long since dead ideas bring anyone closer to the Truth?
    A stone was thrown into a pond , the ripples hit the shores,reflecting upon their source and it continues to this day .
    the calm crystal pool of water will never be so again.
    someone once said that idiots never unite. after reading this article , it seems that the saying implies the entire human race will remain in that state for many more generations.
    none of the commentary was uplifting either. please wake me up when the human condition changes for the better.
    William .

  • Jesus1

    I’ve had two supernatural experiences while praying in Jesus name. Science can never explain it. Christians who know what I’m talking about know we can never be persuaded to Islam even under the threat of be-heading. Jesus said pray for your enemies and those who wrongfully persecute you. The Quran says, “Do not be friends with Christians & Jews”. If they are ordered by Allah the moon god not to be friends with us then what? Further study of the Quran makes it clear. The Quran orders all Muslims to go into the world and take it for Allah untill NO RELIGION on earth exist above that of Allah. They are also told to do it in Jihad if infidels refuse to confess that Allah is greatest. I’ll stick with Jesus till the end.

  • unanymous

    Instead of anger i pray may God of The Bible spare the life of this cleric for he doesnt know what he say. In jesus name.. Amen

  • http://palmreading24.com/ Mike

    I think these guys need to learn history, too.

  • http://theamericaninterest ajay mehta

    Let all the Christians do one thing chop,kill, slice, slain, all the muslims in the entire world not allow any muslim in europe, north america, southamerica and oceanian continent and stop them from conquering the asian and african continent make a rule that every islamic country has maximum no of churches and synagogues and apart from muslims other won’t follow any rules and regualtion their punishment we wont follow or undergo destry all mosques and madrasas from the world and maximum number churches, parishes and synagogue and get all Muslims converted to the other religions o the world and especially Saudi Arabia to more westernized than America and attack Mecca Medina if they have no respect for Christians a religion that completely copied and poped out from Christianity and Judaism by their great prophet Mohammad. to be hell with this people.

  • anonymous

    What a two faced whore. How would this idiot feel if christians decided to the same to their religion?

  • anonymous

    How would these people feel if christians decided to do the same to mosques?

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