Columnists > Voices

War of religions

Though the secularists cannot imagine such a thing, the world is convulsed in a religious war

Issue: "Survivors," Sept. 29, 2007

A global Islamic revival is creating conflicts that go beyond the War on Terrorism. Much of the civil unrest around the world-in Indonesia, East Timor, the Philippines, Sudan, among others-has to do with Muslims attacking Christians. Meanwhile, in tribal villages from Asia through Africa, Islam and Christianity are competing for the souls of the people. Even the jihadist assaults against America and Europe may be seen as a Muslim war on the civilization that Christianity produced.

Though the secularists cannot imagine such a thing, the world is convulsed in a religious war.

The Washington Post's Phillip H. Gordon recognizes that the conflict with radical Islam is an ideological war, like the struggle of the free, capitalist West against communism. He points out, however, that victory in the Cold War came not from armed warfare but from winning the ideological argument. He says that instead of using military might against Islamists, we should be demonstrating to the Muslim world the superiority of Western ideas.

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The problem, though-besides the need to take military action against those who attack us-is that the West has become so self-loathing and religiously clueless that it seems unable to stand up against Islam ideologically. Relativists are not very well-suited to making an ideological argument.

Though radical Islam is arrayed against Christianity, Western thinkers are claiming that Christianity and Islam are essentially the same.

Some say the two religions are equally good. We are told that Islam is a tolerant religion hijacked by radicals. Others say the two religions are equally bad. Christianity is just as violent as Islam, according to a number of recent books, and conservative Christians are as big a threat to freedom as Muslim terrorists. The enemy, then, is religion in general, with secularists claiming to be the true representatives of Western civilization.

But the secularists are having trouble standing up against Islam. If you go to gatherings of the hard-left-a Green Party convention, a radical bookstore, a demonstration against the Iraq war-you will find tracts, pamphleteers, and activists who are actively taking the jihadist side. These leftist circles often include homosexuals and feminists who would be among the first killed if the jihadists had their way.

In reality, Islam and Christianity are opposites. One posits a deity far above the fray; the other embraces a God who became flesh and dwelt among us. One bases salvation on works, and not necessarily even good works; the other bases salvation on God's grace expressed in His own sacrifice to sinners. One is worldly, with the goal of imposing Islamic law on earth; the other is supernatural, bringing converts into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Not to recognize these differences-and the cultural and political implications that grow out of them-is like trying to wage the Cold War with the assumption that capitalism and communism are essentially the same.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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