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Separate and unequal

"Separate and unequal" Continued...

Issue: "Our pork," Dec. 8, 2007

WORLD: Let's turn to Islam: Why did Muslim Arabs gain military victory with such ease during the seventh century?

STARK: They were very well-organized and led, and they were highly mobile (everyone rode on a camel and then dismounted to fight). In addition, they were opposed by fortress garrison troops who were poorly suited to fight battles of maneuver. Eventually, the Muslim invaders ran into quality Christian forces at Tours (Poitiers) and were routed. From then on the Muslim tide began to ebb. Christians soon began to retake Spain, then Sicily and Southern Italy were liberated.

WORLD: Some Muslims and their supporters state that Muslim conquests led to rapid mass conversions. How long did it take for half of the people in conquered areas to become Muslims?

STARK: It took more than two centuries, despite the immense financial and social benefits of converting.

WORLD: It's commonly written that Muslims in Spain and other conquered areas were more tolerant than Christians. Any truth in that?

STARK: Not a bit. The notion that Muslims nurtured benign, multicultural societies, while Christians were viciously intolerant, is a lie made up by Voltaire, Gibbons, and other 18th-century writers intent on trashing the Catholic Church. Life in an Islamic society was, for Jews and Christians, nasty, demeaning, and dangerous.

WORLD: When pluralists say that all religions have contributed to the discovery of God, I suspect you have criteria for evaluating that claim.

STARK: First, was the religion founded on claims of revelation? Buddha, for example, regarded gods as of very minor significance and claimed to have discovered religious truths on his own. In contrast, Moses based his teachings on what he said had been revealed to him by God. If we take Buddha at his word, he contributed nothing to our understanding of God. If we believe Moses, he greatly enlightened us.

WORLD: And then?

STARK: There ought to be substantial consistency among faiths sharing a valid claim to know God. For example, if faiths teaching that there is a conscious life after death are valid, then those faiths that teach otherwise must not be valid. Finally, ordered as to when they were founded, authentic faiths ought to reveal an increasingly sophisticated and complex understanding of God.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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