Skip to comments.Islamists Know a Western Civilization Secret: ‘Progress’ Makes Religion Decline
Posted on 11/30/2010 8:17:13 AM PST by SeekAndFind
The motive to reform Islam from within is weaker than the motive of those like Martin Luther, as Islamists can point to the decline of Christian belief and assume the same would happen to Islam.
It had not occurred to Protestant theologians who had been trying to liberalize and modernize Christianity that they were thus undermining the very religion they were seeking to buttress scientifically When the protective covering [of faith] is removed, no one should any longer be surprised to see [Christianity] quickly dry up. Curtis Cate, from Friedrich Nietzsche.
When the 21-year-old Friedrich Nietzsche, who many years later would proclaim the supreme being to be dead, returned home from his first semester at university in 1865, his family was shocked. Not only was his face bloated by drink and carousing, but this son and grandson of clerics declared that he was an atheist. (By the way, the dispute didnt stop him from constantly thereafter asking his family for money.)
It was a story to be repeated many times over the decades and is still commonplace today. Of course, religion by no means died in the West, especially in the United States, but it has been in a constant state of retreat and decline especially among the elite.
Today, it is remembered that churches often aligned with reactionary forces trying to roll back the tide of modernization, science, and social change. But what is forgotten is how often clergymen and pious people, especially Protestants, pushed forward these tides and energetically tried to adjust their religion to them.
Often the strongest advocates of reason and science over the last three centuries were highly religious Christians. They were motivated by an honest search for truth wherever it led, a particularly needed quality in todays society. But they also proclaimed that rationality or science did not undermine religion. They were brave, confident, and honorable. But they were also wrong.
The modern era in this respect can be said to have begun with David Friedrich Strausss Life of Jesus, first published in 1835 but mainly known through his revised 1864 edition. The historian Curtis Cate explains:
It is difficult for us, who live in a radically secular, critical, and scientific age, to appreciate the tremendous furor which the first edition aroused.
But Strauss was trying to adapt Christianity to the modern age, not be its gravedigger. Another such writer was Heinrich Gottlob Paulus, a pious professor who had studied both philosophy and theology, who suggested in his 1828 book that the story of his religions founder walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee was an optical illusion because of bright sunlight or shimmering fog.
Cate writes that the next stage was that of a new school of:
Scientific theology, which argued that if religious faith was to survive many of the traditional beliefs would have to be jettisoned. In theory this wish to create a dynamic, as opposed to a static, inflexible religion was admirable, but who was to decide how much of the New Testament needed to be pruned and how much of it retained as basic and uncorrupted Christianity?
By the time this process was finished, huge numbers had fallen away from belief, while what remained in many churches, especially among the elite, is a sort of pious-flavored combination of social justice and social-climbing without much presence of divinity. Such arid religion is not particularly successful in inspiring, much less retaining, members.
Evangelical churches retain their enthusiasm, but they have a difficult choice: do they try to shield their members, deeming knowledge unsafe for them, or can they really create an alternative elite that remains steadfast? The unpalatable alternatives often seem to be ignorance or defection.
Western political, cultural, and intellectual elites today are, whatever patina of hypocrisy remains, overwhelmingly atheist. Im not saying this is a good or bad thing. Its simply my observation and analysis.
Still, it is necessary for at least those members of the elite engaged in politics to pretend they have some religious faith. Paris is worth a Mass, said the French king who switched from being a Protestant to Catholicism in order to rule. So is Washington.
Another intriguing question is whether the decline in religiosity in the West is an inevitable part of the modernization process, or something reversible. The former argument seems more likely.
None of this, however, is my point here. My interest is how this affects Islam and the Middle East. In light of this Western history, how strong is the motive to reform Islam?
The answer is that it is far less strong than outside observers may think. The year is 2010, not 1517 when Martin Luther proclaimed his revolt against the Catholic Church and could in full confidence believe his reform would strengthen Christianity, as it arguably did for several centuries. Can Muslims believe the equivalent of that idea today?
It is 2010, not the 1820s or 1830s when Strauss and Paulus could believe that a thorough critical inquiry into Christianity would preserve its hegemony in European society. Can Muslims believe the equivalent of that idea today?
Islam suffers not due to any military or economic aggression of the West, but from the pervasiveness of apparently Western but really more generically modern ideas. For the great majority of believing Muslims, any serious reform of their religion is risky, probably too risky, to undertake and still expect the patient will survive.
While one can argue that certain internal structures and basic beliefs of Islam block reform, a fourteenth-century observer could have made such a case for Christianity as well. Based on a contemporary reading of the scriptures and holy books, my Medieval predecessor could have argued that it was impossible for any believing Christian to accept a dramatic shift in his religion, including a tolerance toward political and cultural secularism.
Yes, it happened. But it happened at a time and in a context when the clergy and the pious could often believe that modernization and reform would in no way undermine their institutions and faith. That is not possible for Islam in the twenty-first century when we have all seen the example of the West.
To refer to a totally different analogy for the moment, consider the fate of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev, as the countrys leader, tried to reform Communism in order, he thought, to save it. Instead, the USSR fell apart. The Russian people (and certainly Moscows former subject nations) are better off, but try telling that to a convinced Communist who enjoyed power and privileges under the old system.
Here, then, is the paradox. Only massive social change, secularizing intellectuals, open debate, a critical examination of the most basic religious beliefs, a transformation of the role of women, and similar things can open up a modern society in Muslim-majority societies. Yet it is understandable that the 2010 Muslim would see as suicide what the 1517 or 1835 Christian saw as a glorious future in which science and religion would be mutually reinforcing.
Conversely, to dig in, kill the critics, raise the walls higher, try to shut out (or severely constrain) modernity, and demagogically stoke the fires of jihad really is a logical response for those who want to preserve their religion and society as it has existed for centuries.
Perhaps they will fail due to opposition or to historical inevitability, but such forces carried on the battle for centuries in the West, arguably with fascism (which of course had its neo-pagan side) being the last effort. There are many in the Muslim-majority world ready to die trying, and theres no reason they cant draw the process out for centuries of time and make it wade through rivers of blood to get to the other side.
The only way we can reform islam is to strengthen the other religions.
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised thingsand the things that are notto nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him ...
1 Corinthians 1:21-29
Poor grasp of history and theology. A waste...
If it were not for the Christian faith (both Orthodox and Latin), there would be NO Western science and technology.
Even the science allegedly brought to the West by islam was largely borrowed from the Orthodox Christian East-Roman (”Byzantine”) world. Those few in the muslim empire who were innovators largely built upon Greek science and mathematics, and were themselves marginal muslims. And when islam finally codified the Qur’an and cracked down on any “deviations”, innovation in the islamic world ceased.
A strong Orthodox Christian renewal movement in America would NOT “block progress”. It might even enhance innovation, since American secularism is taking a strong anti-innovation stance (especially among secularists who have replaced worship of the Triune God with worship of “the one”.) And it would serve as a barrier to the islamization of America.
Christianity survives, and will, because it is the fountainhead of liberty. Freedom cannot survive without it.
As for those elites that do not have faith, their fate will be the same of all others who reject God's gift of salvation.
John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
True. Which does not invalidate the author's contention that the science and technology which sprang from Christianity undermines its parent.
Unless you can show me some society in which the political and technocratic elite remains strongly Christian.
The only (possible) example I can think of is Poland. But there I believe much of the fervor for Catholicism was rooted in opposition to Communism. If I'm right, there will be a gradual decline in religious faith among Polish elites.
BTW, I don't think the scenario the author describes is a good thing, I just believe it is accurate.
Validating this concept is a verse in the Koran that states, "Verily, God will cause to err whom he pleaseth, and will direct whom he pleaseth." Although this statement refers specifically to God's direction in the lives of individuals, it has also been interpreted more broadly. If God does as he pleases, and what he pleases is variable, then the universe may not be lawful. Thus, Moslim theology did not provide the necessary fundamental assumptions for erecting the concept of science based on observations leading to the formulation of natural laws.
Science was able to develop under Christianity, due to the belief that God designed the world to operate according to specific natural laws requiring minimal interference.
This is crap. Sinful men causes religion to decline.
God wants us to be modern and faithful to His precepts, but men would rather be sinful.
God wants us to be modern?
Quite frankly I don’t think He cares about that much at all. You can get to heaven without being modern.
Kill islamists en masse.
Now, how many muslims are islamist?
“The only (possible) example I can think of is Poland. But there I believe much of the fervor for Catholicism was rooted in opposition to Communism. If I’m right, there will be a gradual decline in religious faith among Polish elites.”
You’re right - and wrong. Christianity will probably, I say probably, wane in Poland. Your contention that Christianity was strong there because it stood in opposition to communism misses the simple point that it was always strong there. It will not now wane because communism is dead either. It will wane - if it does so at all - because Poland will become a more secularized western-like state. In other words, Poland will become more latter-day, or post-, Protestant.
Protestantism is the gateway to atheism. As Pope Pius X wrote over a century ago in Pascendi:
“Certainly this suffices to show superabundantly by how many roads Modernism leads to the annihilation of all religion. The first step in this direction was taken by Protestantism; the second is made by Modernism; the next will plunge headlong into atheism.”
For this reason radical Islam is actually gaining ground in the West. As traditional Christianity is displaced by its modernistic counterfeits, Islam appears as a balm to those wounded by unbelief.