:: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 ::
Mosques vs. Churches vs. Freedom
Posted by Edward Cline at 7:18 AM
One thing I have observed about the swelling opposition to big government, Obamacare (and to President Barack Obama himself), the transparently venal and corruptible nature of Congress, and Islam is that many of those “anti’s” are religious, specifically Christian. Islam especially is opposed and feared, chiefly and ironically on religious grounds. It is almost as though Christians considered Islam a rival creed that is wedding-crashing, taking over the festivities, and demanding the right of prima nocta with the bride.
The literature that recounts the evils of the political/theological ideology of Islam is vast, growing, and informative. Unfortunately much of it is wrongly premised and written by individuals of a religious bent who have yet to check their premises. They really have no reason to cast the first stone at Islam, when the stones thrown at them share a striking similarity to the stones they hurl back.
While the persecution of Christians and other religious sects in Islamic countries by Muslims and Islamic governments is indefensible and certainly is evidence that “toleration” of others’ religious beliefs is impossible in any state under Islamic sway, the obsession of Western Christians with the phenomena has a peculiar character that colors their opposition to Islam.
The two main Christian arguments of this opposition are: the Judeo-Christian God is the only true God, Jesus Christ was his prophet (and also our Savior and one-third of the Trinity), because the Bible tells us so; and that Islam is false and hypocritical.
The Islamic rebuttal is equally hubristic: There is the only one true God and his name is Allah, and Mohammad was his prophet; and that all other religions are false, because Allah says so, it is written in the Koran.
On the surface, watching these two faiths in combat is, in a sense, hilarious and worthy of satire. But the serious side is that the more zealous Christian opponents of Islam are in fact no better than their Islamic doppelgangers. They, too, wish to establish a theocracy centered on the Ten Commandments and enforced with all the extra-Constitutional powers they envy the Democrats and welfare statists for having abrogated to impose regulations and controls in our personal and economic lives. Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and Patrick Buchanan are among the more notorious and vocal exponents of the religious opposition to Islam. The fundamentalist Christian agenda is no less nefarious than is the Islamic one.
Oh, yes, they assure us, they’re all for capitalism and free expression and individual rights – up to the point where the Golden Rule applies, and when the imperatives that we are our brothers’ keepers and that it is better to give than to receive should kick in. Which is the point where Progressivism and statism begin, historically and in fact. Religious conservatives have not grasped – or choose not to grasp – the fact that our current welfare state is frankly based on the secularized applications of the Christian virtues of self-sacrifice and selflessness that they profess and propound.
The chief reason why Christians are not effective opponents of Islam is that Christianity is just another form of mysticism. Christians dare not charge Islam with concocting a folderol of byzantine nonsense, or with basing its political practices on a theological premise, or that Islam is an illusion, because down deep the Judeo-Christian system is a mirror image of that same folderol and illusion.
Christians notably do not question the existence of Allah, for the same reason they do not question the existence of God. The names are irrelevant. While Islam has no image of Allah (none is permitted of him or of Mohammad), Christianity has the standard profile of an old man in a long white beard, clad in a nightgown, and wearing floppy sandals, clomping around the universe like a night-watchman, in his mysterious ways causing an earthquake one minute and a supernova the next, all the while keeping an eye on billions of people to check if they have been naughty or nice; or he is sitting on a blinding golden throne surrounded by a choir of angels and the adoring and revoltingly fawning pure of heart.
One cannot imagine that the physiology of Allah differs much from God’s, except that he would probably be fierce-looking, armed with a scimitar, and about as friendly as a rabid Doberman. Deists, on the other hand, contend that God has no recognizable form, but rather that he is like the fabled immaterial “ether” some scientists once claimed enveloped everything in the universe but were never able to detect or prove existed.
Occasionally it is instructive to cross swords with a Christian opponent of Islam. As will be seen below, religion is a dead horse I stopped beating in my teens. On rare occasions I bother to engage in such fencing simply to hone my own argumentation skills, and because the religious right needs to be faced down, contradicted, rebutted, and, if necessary, humiliated.
Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of The Middle East Forum, author of The Al Quaeda Reader, and has written and lectured extensively on “radical” Islam. An article by him appeared on March 3rd concurrently on Pajamas Media and the MEF site, “Mosques Flourish in America; Churches Perish in Muslim World.” It is educational in that he documents how Christian churches and Christians in the Middle East are regularly attacked. His chief subject in this article is the overall hostile policy of Mideast governments towards Christians and their churches. He usually suggests that “radical” Islamists are the culprits, not average off-the-rack Muslims.
Readers here know that I make no distinction between Islam and “radical” Islam, just as I make no distinction between a car and an automobile. Or, to put a finer point on it, between a Jaguar and a Toyota. Both are “cars” and can kill you if you step in their way. So it is with Islam. Islam can no more be reformed and salvaged than can Nazism or Communism or Socialism.
What follows is an exchange I had with a “JJ” on the Pajamas Media site. “JJ” is a Christian who regards Islam as an abomination. Well, Allah said that any other creed is an abomination. This is tantamount to two juveniles sticking their tongues out at each other. Ibrahim apparently has elected not to contribute to the discussion. I would not have pursued the issue after posting my first comment that it is pointless to charge Islam and Muslims with mere hypocrisy, except that “JJ” chose to align my atheism with that of Stalin’s, Mao’s Pol Pot’s, and Hitler’s. That insinuated affiliation raised my dander. You may read Ibrahim’s article for the truth of his argument that Islam is hypocritical, but also to catch the sense that hypocrisy is the far lesser offense.
Ibrahim, like many knowledgeable and articulate anti-Islamist scholars and commenters, is basically asking of Islam: Why can’t it reciprocate in terms of religious tolerance? But his intimate knowledge of the Koran and of Islam fails him. His premise is that off-the-rack Muslims are somehow more tolerant and to be tolerated than are “radical” Islamists. It is not as though he were contending that A can also be non-A at the same time. It is though he were saying that if only Muslims would take just a part of A and discard the rest, then all would be fine and there would be peace and harmony in the world.
I have corrected the typos and misspellings in “JJ’s” and my own rebuttals. My original posts follow in italics.
Writing here as an atheist and so very likely a member of a minority of readers, I agree with Mr. Ibrahim that it is quite and curiously hypocritical of Muslims, particularly those in the Middle East, to call for “tolerance” and “equality” and to pose as “revolutionaries” (re Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, etc.) yet then attack and murder Christians and burn down their churches. The issue is a straw man. Why belabor the point when it is conceded that Islam preaches and encourages intolerance, subjugation, and at the very least second-class status of non-Muslims?
Why dwell on Islam’s obvious double standards when it is admitted that Islam is a totalitarian political/religious ideology? Islam is a primitive, tribalist religion which frankly I place in the same belief system category as Freemasonry and Druidism, to name but a few surviving examples of mysticism, with the difference being that Islam is a virulent, aggressive, and wholly anti-mind system that demands unquestioning obedience and undiscriminating credulity.
So, what else should one expect? There is no difference between Islam and “radical” Islam. Islam isn’t even “radical.” It is nihilist in nature. It is an enemy and destroyer of Western values. It is not a morality for living happily on earth, free from religious and state interference in one’s life.
I was struck by Mr. Ibrahim’s omission of the fact that before Christian Egypt was conquered by “radical” Islamists, Egypt was the beneficiary of the world of Rome and Greece and was largely pagan. At the time, Christians were the “jihadists,” demanding submission by all to Christian doctrines. The vacillating and compromising policies of Imperial Rome granted these terrorists political legitimacy and carte blanche to wage “holy war” against Jews and pagans.
This historical fact was admirably dramatized in Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora,” which climaxes with the savage murder by Christians of Hypatia, a pagan philosopher and scientist, because she would not submit to Christianity and recant her beliefs and accept the role as a second-class citizen. Her murder was provoked by “St.” Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, and is evocative of the recent attack on Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, Cairo, [and for the same bestial reasons, and a hatred of the good for being the good].
Hypocrisy and double standards are not the primary failings of Islam. They are wholly secondary to the evil of the anti-life creed itself.
While your opposition to Islam is appreciated, your atheism isn’t. The wholesale abandonment of Christianity in the West by people like you is undermining (in fact it has already corroded) Western Civilization. Much as, if not more than, Islam.
JJ: Because you have made it a personal issue (“people like me”), allow me to ask you this: What difference is there between Muslims demanding that Christians substitute a Christian God with an Islamic one, and Christians being certain Muslims are worshiping the wrong deity? After all, Muslims are just as certain of the existence of their deity as you are of yours, and any down to the wire dispute between you and a Muslim would be a matter of fisticuffs. The outcome of which, of course, wouldn’t prove or disprove the existence of either deity. A Muslim bows five times a day to a rock (probably a meteorite); you perhaps make the sign of the cross in front of a crucifix. Those actions, however, are supposed to be not only confessions of faith, but proof of the existence of a deity. Or should one ask if there is any difference between Allah the unknowable (only through blind faith) and God the unknowable (only through blind faith)?
And I differ with your assertion that there is a “wholesale abandonment of Christianity in the West.” Mosques may be springing up all over the country, but they have a ways to go before catching up with the number of churches of every imaginable denomination (synagogues coming in a close second). In the small town I live in, there are at least thirty churches, mostly Protestant, with a handful of Catholic ones. There might be a mosque here, but it isn’t advertising itself. If there is one, it has likely set up shop in an abandoned bagel store.
Western civilization rests on a fealty to reason, and not to faith. When reason is abandoned, and the evidence of one’s senses is disparaged and shunted aside and replaced with policies of “diversity” or “sensitivity,” then the West winds up with, say, the intractable problem of the Somali pirates (all Muslim, or Muslim-born), and how best to deal with those initiators of force. It also finds its fundamental institutions, such as individual rights and freedom of speech, under increasing attack by Islamic jihadists who are confident that the upholders of Western values are paper tigers.
You also insinuate that atheism is “corroding” Western civilization. I’m not aware of atheists flying planeloads of helpless passengers into churches, or plotting to dynamite St. Peter’s in Rome and hoping for massive collateral casualties among its throngs of visitors. What I am aware of, however, are various Christian sects firebombing abortion clinics, murdering doctors, asserting that our entire legal system is based on the Ten Commandments, and indoctrinating children in schools that America wasn’t founded on secular philosophy, but on religious faith. On the matter of corrosion, it is a fealty to reason that is being corroded by blind faith, and there is an exponential relationship between the decline of reason in the West and the resurgence of any species of faith. Else how account for the cancerous inroads of Islam in the West (aside from the invidious effects of secular statism, the welfare state, and multiculturalism) and the helplessness of Christians to combat them?
Thank you for your comments. I’m happy to respond to some of them – it would be next to impossible to do so on all of them in much detail, within such limited forum.
At the outset, let me state I don’t belong to any organized religion, I consider myself a 21st century theist, although I was brought up a Christian, and I deeply appreciate the contributions Christianity has made to Western Civilization, America, my family and myself (in spite of its minor failures over the past two millennia – when compared with its spectacular successes – and its shortcomings in dogma, when compared with its undeniable strengths of offering vision real hope and deep purpose in life.) This issue is theological, and not being a theologian myself, I wouldn’t venture into it.
Atheism is the outcome of Darwinism and Marxism, not the product of reason, the Renaissance or the Enlightenment all three the products of (religious) Classical Greece, Christianity and the Protestant Ethic within the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber). Classical Greece, Christianity and Capitalism are the pillars of Western Civilization. Take one away, and Western Civ collapses, as it has in front of our eyes. A small point in regards to reason and theism: Einstein, the early Hawking (not the today’s senile one) and Godel are impeccable sources for that link.
Islam is a bad copy of the Old and New Testament, a fake religion a violent cult, a brutal socio-economic movement put together by an irrational psychotic murderer pedophile thief pseudo-prophet and nothing more nothing less.
Atheism has been the ideology of tyrants from Lenin and the other soviet communist leaders, to Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and the rest. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I would like to clarify that I don’t blame all followers and fellow travelers of atheism (people like yourself) to be necessarily evil communists or Nazis. Most likely they aren’t; but this doesn’t take away from the monkey on their back, atheism.
I could delve more on all these issues, but I won’t. Hopefully you get the main gist of my key points.
JJ: First, I was raised in a Catholic household, and attended a parochial school for eight years. I was a confirmed atheist by the age of 15, never having heard of Marx or Darwin. My disbelief in a deity was founded on two impregnable premises: the metaphysical impossibility of one, and the moral objection to an unseen power having power over my existence. The first aspect was based on my growing knowledge of history and of the universe and existence, and the absurdity that one omniscient, omnipotent deity was responsible for it all. The second was based on the contradictory nature of God: his was both omnipotent and omniscient, attributes he shares with Islam’s Allah.
If he was omniscient, or all-knowing of everything that was, is and is to be, then he cannot be omnipotent, able to change what was, is and is to be. He would have had to know that he was going to be whimsical in the future, and cause earthquakes and plagues and know what countless billions of individuals would and would not do; but that all-knowingness lets the wind out of his being able to change anything at whim. He already knew that he was going to indulge a whim. So, where’s the omnipotence?
Further on the moral objection: the role of predestination clashes with the Christian notion of free will. If one is “programmed” by God to be good, evil, or just mediocre, what role does “free will” play in the Christian scheme of things? This is double-talk, the Christian version of taqiyya.
And when one points this out to especially Christians, they invariably reply that reason cannot be applied to God’s existence or actions. Reason, they say, is the handmaiden of faith, and must defer to belief. That pitiful fall-back Christians share with Muslims. I had worked this out by the age of 15 (sans Muslims, who weren’t making headlines in the late 1950’s).
Contretemps: Atheism is an outcome of reason, of enquiry into the nature of existence. That most atheists historically have not conceived of a morality to replace the altruism and self-sacrifice of Christianity, Islam, and other creeds is no reason to assert that atheism is a product of totalitarian ideologies. Most atheists I know just haven’t finished that journey. They usually become welfare-statists and collectivists. Atheism predates Darwinism and Marxism. Darwinism is a legitimate “spin-off” of enquiries into the nature of existence; Marxism substitutes God with a Hegelian notion of the masses and predestination and some mystical inevitability of the triumph of communism.
Capitalism is a consequence of reason applied to the nature of man and his political relationship with other men, that he must be free to act for his own gain and happiness. It is indeed a pillar of civilization. Again, it has not been morally validated, except by philosopher Ayn Rand.
You say that “Atheism has been the ideology of tyrants from Lenin and the other Soviet communist leaders, to Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and the rest.” This is not strictly true. These tyrants merely replaced God with a deity of their own: society, the people, the race, and committed mass murder and made war in the name of the people, the race, and society. That they did not believe in the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is irrelevant. They established their own religions, more “materialistic” than the prevalent ones. That the dictators you cite have given atheism a “bad name” is hardly a valid reason for denigrating atheists in general. One could no more rationally cast a pall of evil over science, medicine, and technology because these evil men all used those realms of human enquiry and action to commit their crimes.
You rush to assure me that you "don’t blame all followers and fellow travelers of atheism (people like you) to be necessarily evil communists or Nazis. Most likely they aren’t; but this doesn’t take away from the monkey on their back, atheism.” Atheism has never been a monkey on my back, but rather an integral factor in my intellectual and moral growth. It liberated me from dogma and blind belief, which I disliked and had suspicions of even in my pre-atheistic childhood. It helped to require me to demand evidence and proofs behind anyone’s assertions.
On a final note, I have always found the gods of Classical Greece and Ancient Rome at least far more credible – their forms and actions were invariably based on man’s, not on some invisible, unknowable deity’s – and if not more edifying, then at least more entertaining.
I assume that your response to “Mike” is in effect a misplaced response to my reply? If so, let me make just a few additional points, with your indulgence.
Godel (the great logician of the two “incompleteness” theorems in logic) in his last and unpublished theorem on “a God-like structure” provides the most eloquent, convincing and rigorous proof to date for the necessity to invoke God in reason. Otherwise, fundamental notions in logic are reduced to contradictory statements. Such contradictions are ubiquitous in Darwinism and Marxism, and if you wish I could point out a few.
Indeed “free will” and “purpose” are essential components of Life. Atheistic science asserts statements such as “the Universe was created by random fluctuations preceding the Big Bang, it has no purpose, there is no free will, and ‘unknown’ factors and ‘random’ events were behind the creation of Life.” Well, all these are of course arbitrary, capricious and unprovable statements, let alone indefinable and unobservable: for example, science can’t define ‘randomness’ or ‘unknown’ as it can’t deal (empirically or theoretically) with questions such as “what was before these ‘random fluctuations’ and the Big Bang, and why or how did they take place”?
To reject God because you want ‘empirical evidence’ and ‘reason’ and then turn around and accept ‘scientific statements’ based precisely on lack of evidence and reason seems to me quite preposterous.
As for Islam, I already elaborated on it; please, don’t refer to it as a ‘religion’ it isn’t; and ‘Allah’ is a bad imitation/copy of the Judeo-Christian God, a phony notion actually. If you read the stupid way the Koran copied the book of Genesis (where it is stated that ‘Allah created the universe from nothing’) you will understand that Islam is a failed attempt to create a ‘religion sounding document’ to gain credibility.
There isn’t much here to rebut. God also created everything from nothing, and in six days, so why “JJ” faults Allah for the same legerdemain, I cannot fathom. (“He stole my act”?) Yes, the Koran is very likely a knock-off of Genesis, with a whole new cast of characters, including a pedophilic brigand and warlord touted as a voice-hearing prophet and ultimate role model for killers, rapists, and sundry other criminals.
The Old Testament, largely a narration, is as harrowing a series of slaughters, indiscriminate begettings, tribal conquests, raids on rival tribes’ herds and women, and truculent conversions as is the Koran, which is largely a series of diktats and commandments. The Godel “JJ” mentions was a mathematician who, to judge by his biography, reminds me of Dr. Robert “pure research” Stadler in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The rest of what “JJ” has to say is just eclectic gibberish.
No persuasion is possible to a person determined to cling to an endless chess board of rationalizations. One could make a career of check-mating every assertion made by “JJ” and his ilk. There is no profit in it once one has observed that the mind of a Christian zealot is as closed as any Muslim’s to reason, logic, and evidence. Such minds are impenetrable, Teflon-coated vessels of intrinsicism, subjectivism and other epistemological disorders.
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