Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Brian McLaren is wrong about Islam and Christianity

CNN recently posted an editorial by Brian McLaren on a sensitive subject, the "bad blood" between Christians and Muslims.  He seemed to argue that American Christians are as much to blame, or to blame in much the same way, as those radical Muslims with whom we are at presently so publicly at loggerheads.  And indeed, among the thousands of comments beneath his post, appeared some that did seem to imbibe something of the paranoia of the crowds in Cairo:

"What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?  And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.  Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.  Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere . . . "

This is, as I said, a sensitive issue, and Christian scholars who are friends disagree profoundly about it.  Sometimes I find myself in the middle of the firefight.  For instance, I found Don Richardson's Secrets of the Koran a bit over the top, but then wrote a long letter to Christianity Today defending Richardson against Warren Larson's critique in that magazine, which seemed even more over-the-top.  And Miriam Adeney, who contributed a wonderful chapter on world religions to our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding, strongly disagrees with Don on this, too. 

So let's examine McLaren's post with a view not to a muddle through the middle, nor even to resolve all conflicts -- we don't need to agree about everything -- but to at least frame the issues a little more reasonably.    

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

Is fear a gas?  And are we Christians, or some "sectors" of American Christianity, the plants that give off that gas?  A strange and inelegant metaphor with which to begin. 

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Huh?  Muslims are murdering people (allegedly) over a stupid film made by an Egyptian Copt with a criminal record, as indeed they have been murdering Copts centuries before films were invented.  This is why American Christians should "own up" to our fear of Islam?  One might think widespread murderous rampages would justify, rather than delegitimize, fear of the group  that carries them out -- all things being equal. 

At any rate, let us pause to note that despite all the New Agish cliches, fear is not inherently irrational.  The world is, in fact, full of things for us vulnerable little carbo-hydrate based creatures to fear.  Most liberals acknowledge that bad ideas can be among those fearsome things -- Nazism, for instance, or (in their view) unbridled capitalism.  If fear can be rational, and if some ideologies are in fact fearsome, one cannot just assume that all manifestations of fear are intrinsically irrational, as McLaren seems to be doing, here. 

Fear can be right and rational.  One must therefore not glibly psychobabble this plain English monosyllable into the question-begging language of "phobias." 

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

We certainly should oppose lies, and work to ensure that what we say is always the truth, including when we're praying.  But let's see what "lies" McLaren will offer as examples. 

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents." Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

That story may, indeed, be false, and if so, should be exposed as such. 

But it is unfortunately true that hundreds of Copts have been murdered by fanatical Muslims in Egypt in recent years.  Why doesn't McLaren mention that highly relevant detail?  It is also true that Coptic Christians are systematically marginalized in Egypt.  Is also turns out that a large percent of Muslims in Egypt believe it is not only OK, but laudible, to murder Muslims who convert to Christianity:

Returning to the death penalty for those who abandon Islam, called for by 84 percent of Egyptians, it must be pointed out that those who want it are men and women, old and young, educated and uneducated, without distinction.

In Jordan, the level of support for sentencing apostates to death rises all the way to 86 percent. It is only in Lebanon and Turkey that support is low, at 6 and 5 percent respectively.

If Egyptian Muslims justify murdering apostates, and if Copts are in fact frequently killed, the difference between the reality and the rumor lies merely in the gaudiness of the method of murder, not in the substantial fact of mass murders.

So what kind of shell game is McLaren playing?  Does he think we're such fools that we don't even notice when he moves the shells around on the table?   

And of course, Christians have been almost entirely driven out of other Middle Eastern countries, as they soon may be from Egypt, where they have lived for two thousand years.  Outside the Arab world, sharia law has been adopted in northern Nigeria.  One might describe Idi Amin's fanatical hatred of Christianity as an exception, but a converted Imam tells me before he converted, he would have defended killing converts from Islam on accepted legal grounds. 

That's the problem.  McLaren's intent seems to be to distract attention from that problem by a kind of relativism -- we're as bad as they are.  But one should not lie, even to sound humble, or even to get published by CNN.   

Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

I have befriended Muslims, and Don Richardson has called for Christians to do the same.  (See the end of our interview in Faith Seeking Understanding.)  So it is possible to hold these two thoughts -- "Islam is dangerous" -- "Christ calls us to love our neighbors, even our enemies" -- in the mind at the same time. 

And I think that kind of balance is what the Gospel calls for, and a healthy response to complex reality.   

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned. John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

What is the point here?  That Christians, unlike CNN (???) should only interview authorities whose views are never questioned?  Or does McLaren want us to read "questioned" to mean "proven to be false?" 

If the latter is his intent, he should say so clearly, and back up his claim. 

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

Again, no details to help us judge the matter.  It does not seem intrinsically impossible that Muslim (or Russian, or Chinese) spies would want to influence power in Washington, D. C.  Nor does it seem unlikely, given the trillions of Middle Eastern oil money wafting around, that they have indeed influenced people in Washington -- some names come to mind.  If all that oil wealth had resulted in no power or influence at all (even though ex-presidents are often given large sums to speak in the Arab world), such surprising failure would reflect monumental incompetence.

So why is this question inherently wrong to ask?  If McLaren simply thinks this book asks a good question, but makes some mistakes in answering it, why doesn't he point those mistakes out?  

Or does he assume that his readers will note the faint whiff of implied "McCarthiism" here, and respond automatically, like Pavlov's dogs?   (I bet my mere naming of the term caused emotional responses in some readers -- "Oh, no!  Not that!")

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

No doubt this happens.  Why, then, given the chance to write for CNN, haven't you given any concrete examples of what you're talking about?

Wouldn't it be great to find out, for instance, that a large majority of Egyptian Muslims really doesn't think converts to Christianity should be killed?   

Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

Why?  Again, McLaren has still not bothered to explain what "Islamophobia" is, or why it is wrong.  I admit that I'm afraid of some communities, and some bodies of thought -- for instance, the Mafia, and the idea that it is a hilarious bit of physical comedy to place the head of a racehorse in the bed of someone you're angry at.

No doubt there are inappropriate fears, too, but McLaren seems content to merely allude to them, rather than point any out. 

Movies that bash Christianity are made every week, and some are shown to millions.  We don't burn down embassies in protest.  Isn't McLaren being a tad bit patronizing to Muslims, to think Christians need to do all this soul-searching, because of a cheap little flick that no one saw, and none of us helped make? 

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia.

For which you have failed to demonstrate an iota of real evidence, sir. 

If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

Yes -- if I were associated with it.  But I'm not.  And neither is anyone else I know, in any way. 

Anymore than I am associated with McLaren, despite his claim to belong to "my tribe."  (Which is a useful trick for gaining access to mass media, let me hasten to add.) 

You've heard of "Guilt by Association?"  There's not even any association in this case -- except in Mr. McLaren's mind.  Neither I, nor any evangelical anyone has named yet, seems to be associated with the production of this film.  By contrast, real atheists do seem to have been associated with Bill Maher's hate flick, Religulous, which was produced by hundreds, and seen by millions.  So shouldn't CNN be publishing soul-searching articles about how Gnus ought to be beating their breasts, instead?     

In any case, in a free country, what troubles me is not a few idiots who make a junior-high level film that no one watches -- unless, say, people are abused in the making of the film, which does piss me off -- but the fact that crowds whom we support with taxpayer money, are torching our embassies, and our government has done too little to stop it.  In fact, it troubles me that we are sending American tax dollars to an Egypt now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Call me a fanata-phobic, if you will.    

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Yes, well, so is most of Hollywood. 

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

Amazing someone can write so much, even for CNN, without the trace of a real idea emerging from all his verbiage.  And apparently his book is among the top 200 on Amazon. 

I am hostile to Islam, I admit it.  By that I mean I think Mohammed was a bad man, and his influence in the world has been more harmful than otherwise.  

But I am not hostile to Islam in the sense of thinking all Muslims are evil, or that Islamic art lacks all aesthetic appeal, that Medieval Cordoba was a barren wasteland, or that it would be a bad thing to invite Muslims over for Christmas, or hiking, as I have done.  This is a pretty fundamental Christian concept -- "love the sinner, hate the sin" -- that we Christians are called to apply to ourselves, even before our neighbors.  But fine distinctions seem to have been lost on McLaren, along with aspects of his tribal identity. 

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.  No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

Again, one finds barely the trace of a coherent thought in all of this.

Jesus contrasted "God" with "mammon."  The latter is a concrete object -- money -- which one can inordinately love. 

By contrast, "greed," "fear," and "hate" are EMOTIONS.  One does not "serve" emotions, though one may be "ruled" by them.  Emotions may be called ordinate or inordinate to varying situational contexts: "I hate liver!"  "I hate my Grandfather!" "I hate Illinois Nazis!" or "I hate injustice!" all involve "hatred," but in different ways, some of which are  (or may be) more appropriate than others.  Emotions are (as C. S. Lewis put it) like keyboards on a piano that one plays upon: now dinging this one, now that, some more frequently than others, but none simply "right" or "wrong" at all times and all places. 

McLaren is talking in empty bromides and stale platitudes, apparently (despite his audience, or perhaps because of it) without really thinking at all.

One can, of course, serve God, and hate sin.  Among the sins one can legitimately hate, are political oppression, murder of ambassadors, stoning of raped women, and the burning of Coptic churches.  Of course we as Christians are told to take specks out of our own eyes, or planks, so we should also be on the lookout for them.  But we don't need to wait until we're morally perfect, to stand up on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Muslim (or communist, this is a replay from an earlier movie) countries.    

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

McLaren seems in danger here of running up against a real thought, now: the whole Just War tradition, the debate over the rights (and wrongs) of pacifism, perhaps a revisit of the debates over the Iraq War. 

But he escapes the danger, and retreats into cliches, again: 

Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

I do publicly repudiate all lies on behalf of Christ.  I also publicly repudiate bad film-making.  (Sorry again, Hollywood.) 

I also repudiate relativism, that pretends an unknown hack film by a legally-challenged Copt is somehow equivalent to the millions who have been murdered on the borders of Islam in the past few decades in the name of militant and very serious and main-stream Islam. 

People have free speech in America.  Unfortunately, that means thousands of bad films are probably being made even as we speak.   

Most of the Muslim world lacks freedom.  Islamic culture encourages the murder of those who convert out.  Saudi and Pakistani and Afghani cultures encourage the virtual imprisonment of women, for the crime of being female.   

Those are real problems.  Mild misinformation on obscure American talk shows,, too mild for McLaren to finger concretely (though I suspect he is just being lazy, surely concrete examples could be found) does not seem so dire a problem.  Christ wants us to tell the truth.  I think he also wants us to stand up for the oppressed, including our oppressed brothers and sisters within the Egyptian Coptic community -- who have come in for it already, and now will really be under the wheel. 

Theological Angle: The on-going dust-up between the alleged "Islamophobes" and those who might (by analogy) be called "Islamophiles," reveals the need for a balanced and orthodox theology of religions, which I think is one of the great needs in the Church today.  This is the burden of my doctoral dissertation, which has now been approved by the University of Wales as well as the examiners.  Both "exclusivism" and "pluralism" seem simply too clumsy to help us model the actual complexity and nuance to be found in actual religious traditions. The Bible, by contrast, does I think provide a useful and enlightening model, faithful to God's call to love truth, wherever it can be found, beginning with the Truth Himself.

Perhaps I'll make some of this available here later.  I'm also hoping (and expecting) that the dissertation will be published some time next year.


Crude said...

I truly loathe this sort of thing I'm seeing from McLaren, and I think it has to be the worst aspect of modern Christianity.

Did the anti-Christian group do something despicable? It's time for some soul searching to understand how Christians bring it on themselves. Did the Christian group do something despicable? It's time for some soul searching and it's extremely important to realize that no one else is at fault - that would be denying the true source of the problem.

Also, "Anti-semitic garbage all too common in Western Christian history"? I'm pretty sure anti-semitism spreads way beyond Christians historically - but there we go again.

And yes, Christianity is under assault by the liberal media and secular humanists. Yes, certainly there are Christians who make stupid mistakes, but this is not an either/or situatin.

What blather from this man. What sanctimonious crap.

Where is he when Christ and Christians are mocked on TV? Where is he when Christians are mocked and ridiculed in comics and movies? Hell, where is he when Christians are killed in muslim countries?

Somehow, I can easily picture McLaren gently putting his arm around the shoulders of a woman with a black eye, bloodied nose and missing teeth, and he says, "Look, I understand you feel hurt right now, but you have to admit... that pot roast WAS burnt."

Duh-sciple Tim said...

Beloved brother,

Yes, our Muslim friends have done evil

And... As Paul reminds us: even as we condemn others, we have done the same things. Christian Germany and Christian Rwanda both inflicted genocide. Catholics and Protestants once butchered one another for a century, leading to the Enlightenment.

Of course, Armenians were slaughtered by Muslims through genocide. The Hebrew scriptures speak of wiping out the Canaanites.

We have here a human problem. Humans often form group identity through being united against a hostile Other. Please look up the work of Rene Girard, no liberal, but a faithful Catholic whose career was dedicated to revealing this pattern.

My guess is that you will be hostile to my post. Thus, the pressure is on me, as Jesus teaches in the sermon on the Mount, to return love when faced with hostility. Yes, I must apply this to everyone: Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist.

Now it is time to prove I am not a robot.

Love to you, friend, Tim

David B Marshall said...

Tim: Good to hear from you. Why should I be hostile? We welcome civil and informed discussion here.

I have often cited Girard in my writings, actually (in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, and in Jesus and the Religions of Man, I think), and agree with his take on this issue. Yes, we do have a human problem, manifest in all those places. The Gospel is, I believe (with Girard), the solution to that problem, though that solution manifests itself piecemeal, and in dialectic with said human nature down through the centuries. Rodney Stark is also enlightening on this subject.

Three things are going on at the same time. There is the human problem. There are also the problems of bad people and false teachings. Mohammed was a bad man. The doctrine that one should kill those who convert out, is I think (apparently you agree) a false teaching. This false teaching can be separated from Christianity pretty easily, since Jesus talked so much about love. It's harder to separate from Islam, which is one of the problems.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate your desire to honestly discuss and critically think about important issues, I think you have missed on this one.
The article by Mclaren is merely pointing out that there needs to be introspection about our role and involvement in spreading hate and misunderstanding around the world. He is showing a correlation between the fanaticism and radicalism that inhabits certain segments of Islam with the fanaticism and radicalism that inhabits segments of evangelicalism. In the same way that Islam is now unfairly associated with radicalism so to evangelicalism is danger of being unfairly associated with Muslim hate mongering. There is a segment of evangelicals who are Islamophobic and, since they scream the loudest, they are the perception some Muslims have about Christianity.

Spreading hate and fear serves no good. Christ most harshly criticized leaders from his own religion and humbly accepted abuse and hate while serving as a model of the humble servant. We as Christians are called to model Christ and love those who persecute us. We cannot control how others understand or perceive what we say, but we can control what we say and how we say it. McLaren is pointing out that we have a responsibility to think before we talk and not assume a false moral superiority. If we are not careful, and if we don't rely on God's grace and love, we are in danger of committing the same type of harmful and shameful acts committed by some segments of radical Islam. He is reminding us that at our core we are all more similar than different and very much in need of God's compassion and mercy.

David B Marshall said...

Josh: The point you ascribe to Brian may be worth making, but I don't think Brian makes it effectively, either rhetorically or intellectually. He falls short with the rhetoric, because he's too one-sided, and pretends to be an insider when his own unfair and one-sided rhetoric reveals him as a critical outsider. He falls short logically, for the reasons given above.

I don't think Islam is "unfairly associated" with "radicalism," at all. Mohammed was a radical preacher who did radical things -- in the same cruel sense of "radical" as Osama bin Laden. But this is a common difference between liberals and convertives: conservatives often define religions by the lives of their founders, and by holy canon, whereas liberals tend to define them by developed tradition.

I've already explained the problems with the term "Islamophobe." If you think I'm wrong in what I said above, rather than just repeating the term, you should show how my comments are incorrect. I've also explained that "fear" and "hatred" are not intrinsic, undifferentiated evils, but only in relation to objects to which they stand in inappropriate relation -- there is no harm in spreading "hatred" of oppression or dishonesty, for instance, which I do hate.

I agree with a lot of what you say in the last paragraph. But some of it is self-contradictory. Either it is wrong to ever criticize others, or it is not. If it is, then McLaren hangs himself on his own petard, since that's precisely what he's doing. If it's not, then one can't assume a priori that Christians should never criticize Islam.

The Gospel calls us to a difficult balance. I don't think McLaren has struck that balance very well. Maybe I haven't quite hit it, either, and certainly there's room for humility on all sides.

Brian Barrington said...

The idea that Christians are any more peace-loving or decent than Muslims is so ridiculous it should hardly need rebuttal – but since anti-Islamic bigotry and anti-Arab racism are so ingrained in the West, the manifestly ludicrous claim that Muslims are more violent or more radical than Christians does, unfortunately, need to be rebutted.

Let’s start with a few facts: the biggest genocide since World War II was perpetrated by Christians upon Christians – a mass-murder of 800,000 people that took place in Rwanda. The most destructive war since World War II was a war amongst Christains, leading to the estimated deaths of 5 million people – this took place in the Congo, where five million people were slaughtered. Before then, we have the two world wars themselves – which largely took place between traditionally Christian countries, leading to the deaths of tens of millions of people. Westerners complain about the attitude of Muslims towards Jews – perhaps momentarily forgetting the fact that it was Westerners from Christian countries who systematically exterminated 6 million Jews. Then there was the Western imperialism of Christian countries – you have to laugh at Westerners who complain about Muslim plans to “take over the world” by force. It was Christian countries that ACTUALLY did take over the world by force, during the era of European colonialism, inflicting disgraceful famine and destruction wherever they went e.g. tens of millions of people dying of starvation in India (in some of the biggest famines in human history) while under British rule. The Christian imperialists were technologically superior to the people they conquered. They were not morally superior to the people they conquered- they were morally savage. They frequently exterminated the people they conquered, traded them as slaves, or exploited them in some other way. If you back further you get to the religious wars of Europe which dragged on for centuries (the Thirty Years war in Germany reducing the population of the country by at least a third, for example) – and so on. Coming back to the present we ask ourselves: how many Christian countries have recently been invaded and occupied by Muslim countries? Answer: zero. How many Muslim countries have recently been invaded and occupied by Western Christian countries? Answer: at least two – Afghanistan and Iraq.

Westerners, stewing in their own igorance and bigotry, are laughably unaware how ridiculous it seems to the rest of the world when Westerners and Christians preen and congratulate themselves on being so peace-loving and moderate.

Add it up whichever way you look, Christians and the Christian world are responsible for FAR more violence and destruction than Muslims or the Muslim world. Of course, it does not necessarily make sense to blame Christianity itself for the unparalleled violence and aggression of Christian countries; but blaming Islam for the misbehaviour of people in the Middle East is just as stupid.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: On some subjects, you're a bit like one of Pavlov's dogs: the action-response mechanism seems almost unconscious. A Christian "disrespects" Islam, and you open fire blindly in the opposite direction.

Well, I like dogs, and I rather appreciate your rather canine loyalty to your Muslim friends. But for the record:

* Brian M was talking about American evangelicals, not racial wars in Rwanda.

* Civil war in the Congo has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. (Except for Christians trying to pick up the pieces -- I know one.) Read The Heart of Darkness -- same territory, same motives.

* Genocide in Cambodia was far worse than in Rwanda, so you're wrong about that. (Unless you use a very technical definition of genocide -- which seems strange, since ideology is more relevant than race, here.)

* Idi Amin's mass murders actually were in the name of Islam, against Christianity. The motive in Rwanda was not religious.

* The Sudanese war against black tribes in the south was also largely religious in motivation, lasted for decades, and killed millions.

* By far the most destructive war after World War II was the communist (atheist) conquest of China.

* I'm glad you're not so foolish as to claim the people who launched World War II -- Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and the Japanese military clique -- or their followers, were motivated by some sort of Christian belief. But you kinda sorta imply that, or work your way around it.

* Who claims that because we have one set of evils (communism, Nazism) therefore fundamentalist Islam cannot be a problem? I was a Cold Warrior. I protested communist crimes, beginning with my first published letter-to-the-editor, on the death of the tyrant Mao in 1976. How is it inconsistent for me to protest evils by radical Islam, now?

* The British imperialists conquered India for profit, then kept missionaries out, so they wouldn't interfer with their depradations. When zealous Christians began to influence Indian policy, things changed radically for the better. Read the works of Vishal Mangalwadi, please.

Again, rather than just respond to some Platonic (or Pluto-puppian) argument in your mind, or ringing in your ears, please address the actual arguments, above. And try to remember that on any given continent, some actions actually are motivated by a given ideology, and others are not.

Brian Barrington said...

You could make the case that the dubious honour for most destructive war since WWII belongs to the Chinese. But the International Rescue Committee (IRC) carried out the study with Australia's Burnet Institute, and concluded that Democratic Republic of Congo's 1998-2003 war between Christians, and its aftermath, had caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War Two. You can also make the case that the genocide in Cambodia was worse than the genocide perpetrated by the Christians of Rwanda - or you can make the reverse case, depending on how genocide is defined.

Either way, what is noticeable here is that Muslims were responsible for NONE of these barbaric atrocities. Muslims can sit back back and let Westerners, Christians, and East Asians fight it out for who has been more violent and radical since WWII. By comparison, Muslims have, relatively speaking, been a model of good behaviour, civilised moderation and peacefulness. And if you look at who was more violent and barbaric during and before WWII – well, once more, the Muslims come out looking like angels by comparison to Westerners from Christian nations, or with East Asians.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: Well, if Idi Amin, Omar al-Bashir, Assad, Saddam Hussein, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama bin Laden, are your idea of angels, I think I'd rather go to the atheist hell, thank you very much. If anything kept them from the record books, it was relative impotence, not want of bloodlust. Now that Pakistan and (soon) Iran have nukes, the stakes are clearly higher.

But you're missing the point. I'm not claiming Islam in the past has been worse than, say, Nazism, or Aztec religion (which also failed to win the gold in butchery, not through lack of trying.)

It does seem the case that Muslim slave traders killed and / or transported as many or more slaves than Europeans, despite the latter's technological advantages. But I didn't mention that in the OP, either -- it is also not the point.

The point is today's world. One can only oppose evils of the present or near future: it is too late to fight the battles of the past.

And in the present world, there is something obviously and dangerously wrong with Islam. You can deny that if you like: Denial is, after all, a river that flows past Cairo.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: By the way, if you have time, and you're not too ticked off at my dissing of Islam, I'd be interested in your take on "Why do some atheists spell God with a little g?" and "Peter Berghossian sees through me."

For the record, if we lived in the time of the Opium War and the early imperialism in India, I think it would be proper to attack the imperialists -- as many devout Christians did, including almost all missionaries in China, for instance.

Unknown said...

Amazing. Brian makes the case for Muslim peacefulness based on wars they didn't happen to participate in. I guess that makes the African and western nations equally peaceful, since they did not participate in the conflicts in India and Pakistan.

He is also illegitimately contrasting two different things: culture and war. Everyday culture in Islam is violent and barbaric. Does he consider honor killings, burning houses down, beatings, etc. a "model of good behavior"? Is he aware of how Islam has always been spread?

So picking out a war for comparison is truly ludicrous: it's like comparing an habitually violent man and comparing him to someone who only uses violence in self defense, but is otherwise peaceful. Islam corresponds to the former.