Matt C. Abbott
November 23, 2012
'Christianity, Islam, and Atheism'; 'Adam and Eve after the Pill'
By Matt C. Abbott

The following is the introduction (sans footnotes) to the book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, by William Kilpatrick. Thanks to Ignatius Press and The Maximus Group for providing me with, and allowing me to reprint, this excerpt for my column. Click here to order a copy of the book.



Introduction

Christians in the Muslim world face daily persecution. In some places they are threatened with extinction. Will Christians in Europe and America someday find themselves in the same precarious position that Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, and Iraq now occupy? That will depend on whether they wake up and defend their freedom while they still can.

Muslim persecution of Christians has increased dramatically in recent years. One of the main reasons for this is that, in failing to understand Islam, Western countries have helped to unleash the antagonism toward non-Muslims that lies at the heart of the Islamic faith. For the better part of the twentieth century, secular, despotic governments in the Middle East and in other Muslim regions acted as a restraining force on the more violent manifestations of Islam. Then, starting with the ouster of the shah of Iran in 1979, the situation began to change. Secular strongmen were pushed aside or eliminated, and traditional Islam was able to reassert itself. Western nations played a large part in this transformation. They encouraged, supported, and sometimes actively participated in the overthrow of autocratic rulers with the na´ve confidence that democracy would usher in an "Arab Spring," that is, a blossoming of human rights and liberties. But the overthrow of the shah in Iran, of Hussein in Iraq, of Mubarak in Egypt, and of Gadhafi in Libya didn't have the expected result — neither did free elections in Gaza, Lebanon, and Turkey. Many Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia have become more radicalized and more dangerous, with the result that the future of the non-Muslim population in those areas hangs by a thread. Christians in many predominately Muslim regions now live in a nightmare world of beatings, abductions, rape, imprisonment, torture, looting of shops, and burning of churches.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," said the prophet Hosea _Hos 4:6_. Western lack of knowledge about Islam is not the only reason Christians in the East are being destroyed, but it is a contributing factor. A basic knowledge of Islam would include the fact that it requires the ultimate subjugation of other religions. Moreover, even a cursory glance at Islam's founding document, the Koran, reveals a pronounced disdain for non-Muslims. One of the main reasons for Western ignorance of these facts is that they conflict with one of the most cherished of contemporary Western beliefs: the belief in the benefits of cultural diversity. Paradoxically, this belief rests on a deeper conviction that differences between peoples are in reality only surface phenomena — that although cultures and religions appear to be diverse, they are actually very much the same. Although Islam appears to be different, it must, according to this view, be just like other religions. What appear to be differences are only misunderstandings, and facts that don't support this claim are routinely ignored or suppressed. For this reason, most of the atrocities committed against Christians by Muslims receive very little media attention. When the facts can't be ignored, they are often misrepresented. Thus, attacks on Christians by Muslims are described by the media as "sectarian strife" or as "clashes" between Christians and Muslims.

A carefully guarded ignorance about Islam is widespread in the Western world, and if Western citizens choose to remain in the dark, the problems faced by Christians in Muslim lands could soon become our problems. Europe is already well along the road to Islamization, due in part to immigration and high Muslim birthrates, but also due to strictly enforced speech rules. In several European countries, telling the truth about Islam is a crime. Although further behind, America is on the same road as Europe. The extent of Islamic penetration of our institutions is far greater than most Americans realize, but the mainstream media, along with courts, universities, and various politicians, have been quite willing to obscure this reality.

In some cases this suppression of the facts is conscious and deliberate, but in many cases it's the result of garden-variety group think. Journalists, for example, tend to come from similar backgrounds and attend the same schools of journalism. They belong to a circle of likeminded people among whom certain thoughts are automatically affirmed, while others are automatically excluded. Many of the information gatekeepers sincerely believe the propaganda generated by Islamic apologists because it fits comfortably into their pre-existing thought world. When it comes to covering Islam, they are club reporters, not cub reporters. As Rifqa Bary said to a group of reporters covering her story, "You guys don't understand." She might more accurately have said, "You won't understand."

Who is Rifqa Bary? That her story received only grudging coverage might serve as an illustration of how effectively negative information about Islam is controlled. Bary, a Muslim girl living with her parents in Ohio, had secretly converted to Christianity at the age of fifteen. When her parents discovered the truth two years later, Bary, fearing for her life, fled to Florida, to the home of a Christian pastor and his wife with whom she had been in communication. A court battle ensued and eventually resulted in her return to Ohio, but not to her parents. Rather, she was put under the protection of Ohio social services until she reached eighteen, the age of legal emancipation. Much of the court battle revolved around the question of whether Bary was in any danger from her parents. Her defense argued that Islamic law requires the death penalty for apostates and that her parents would be expected to carry out the execution in order to cleanse their honor. This is what Bary tearfully told Florida reporters:
    'I don't know if you know about honor killing. . . . You guys don't understand. Islam is very different than you guys think. They have to kill me. My blood is now halal, which means that because I am now a Christian, I'm from a Muslim background, it's an honor. If they love God more than me, they have to do this. And I'm fighting for my life, you guys don't understand. You don't understand.'
Most of the media coverage, however, suggested that Bary was the one who had misunderstood her religion, that what she asserted couldn't possibly be the case. Her claim flew in the face of the established narrative that Islam was a religion of peace and justice. The murder of apostates simply didn't fit into the narrative.

If the reporters covering the case had done their homework, they would have discovered that there is an almost universal consensus among Muslim scholars that male apostates must be killed, although many Muslim authorities hold that female apostates need only be imprisoned until they repent and reconvert. Bary was aware of the lesser punishment, but she also knew that Islamic law allows Muslim men to take matters into their own hands when it comes to their wayward daughters. "Either they do that [kill me]," she said, "or they send me back to Sri Lanka. There is an asylum there where they put people like me."

Even though the killing or imprisoning of Muslim converts to Christianity has become more and more common in Muslim communities, the plight of Rifqa Bary didn't fit into the prevailing consensus about Islam, so the majority of reporters decided to frame the story in terms with which they were more familiar. Thus, after the story was processed through the media's mental sorting machine, Rifqa Bary was cast as an over-excitable American teenager who had a squabble with her parents and ran away from home. Multiply the misreporting of Bary's story a thousand times, and you'll have a rough idea of the amount of distortion and misinformation that surrounds one of the main issues of our time.

This book is intended, in part, as a wake-up call. That in itself is revealing. It's amazing that eleven years after 9/11 and eighteen thousand terrorist attacks later, wake-up calls are still needed. Yet the majority of people in the West still do not seem to have grasped the supremacist nature of Islam, let alone the threat it poses to them. What is it that has served to delay that awakening? As I've said, part of the responsibility lies with the Western faith in cultural equivalence. Any evidence that Islam is markedly warlike and intolerant would undermine the doctrine that all cultures and religions are roughly equal. Consequently, Western societies have ignored and even suppressed the facts about Islam and the important differences between it and Christianity.

Unfortunately, many Christians have also fallen into the habit of ignoring the differences. The Islamic faith is founded on a blunt rejection of basic Christian beliefs, but you would hardly know it from reading official Church statements or from listening to leading prelates. Instead of informing their flocks that Islam rejects Christ and requires its faithful to work toward the eventual subjugation of Christians, many Christian leaders have been more intent on emphasizing the common ground that Christians and Muslims share. For example, the Second Vatican Council's declaration Nostra Aetate focuses almost exclusively on the similarities between Muslims and Christians. That approach was in keeping with the spirit of change and openness that marked the Council; moreover, it seemed to fit with the prevailing circumstances in the Muslim world at the time. The search for shared beliefs and values arose at a time when the militant side of Islam was kept firmly in check by secular rulers. But it now seems that the Islamic world the Council Fathers were familiar with was an aberration — a brief departure from the path laid out by Muhammad when he called for Muslims to make the whole world submit to Allah.

During the 1960s, Westernized and secularized Egyptians could laugh along with President Nasser when, speaking before a large assembly, he related how, years earlier, a Muslim Brotherhood leader had demanded that he enforce the wearing of the hijab, the head scarf traditionally worn by Muslim women. Nasser replied, "Sir . . . you cannot make one girl, your own daughter, wear it, and yet you want me to go and make ten million women wear it?" Nasser's remarks brought a burst of applause and laughter from the audience; but, as is now evident, the wearing of the hijab is no longer a laughing matter in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood, the butt of Nasser's joke, is now the dominant political force there.

Many Christians still hope that Muslims and Christians can unite in a common front against atheism and aggressive secularism, but that spirit of cooperation and mutual respect is not shared by many of Islam's religious leaders. The situation that prevailed in the Muslim world at the time of the Second Vatican Council is rapidly disappearing. The face of Islam that now presents itself very much resembles the supremacist religion that once threatened Christendom. In light of this development, it now seems that the common-ground thesis is overdue for a reexamination.

Tolerance needs to be balanced with justice, and justice seems to require that Christians be provided with a fuller account of Islam — if for no other reason than that their survival may depend on that knowledge. Although there is some common ground between Christianity and Islam — as there is some common ground among all religions — it might be wise to start looking at some of the profound differences between the two faiths. For example, because jihad is not an interior spiritual struggle as many have been led to believe, but rather a serious obligation to subdue non-Muslims, a lot of Western Christians are going to be woefully unprepared for the kinds of things that are already happening to Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Being prepared is contingent on being informed, and many Western Christians are no better informed about Islamic beliefs than the pundits and politicians who, in the early months of 2011, predicted that an Arab spring was just around the corner. But finding a fuller account of Islam can be challenging for Christians because many authoritative Church sources are brief and incomplete. Take the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example. Its statement about Muslims (it says nothing of Islam per se) is forty-four words in length, which is about eighty words less than the warning label on a bottle of Tylenol, and it contains no warnings, only the comforting assurance that "together with us they adore the one, merciful God." Well, yes, the Koran refers to God as "merciful," but Islam seems to have its own unique understanding of that word. For example, textbooks for tenth graders in Saudi Arabia instruct them on how to cut off the hand and foot of a thief (illustrations included) as prescribed in the Koran (5:33, 5:38). It would be nice to think that this is only for the purpose of giving students a feel for the way things were done in Muhammad's day; but as a matter of fact, amputations (along with beheadings) are conducted on a weekly basis in public squares in Saudi Arabia. When the Saudis apply a procrustean solution to the misfits in their society, they do so in the literal sense of the term.

Christians have a procrustean problem of their own in regard to Islam. They have developed a habit of trying to force Islamic beliefs to fit into a bed of familiar and comfortable Christian assumptions. Thus, on the rare occasions when Christians hear anything about Islam, they are likely to hear that Muslims worship one God (just like us), that they hold to an Abrahamic faith (just like us), that they revere Jesus (just like us), honor Mary (just like us), and value the moral life (just like us). But trying to fit Islam into a preconceived Catholic/Christian format makes for a very rough fit, as I hope to make clear in the following pages.

An excessive emphasis on tolerance and sensitivity has resulted in a dangerous knowledge gap for Christians. Moreover, when Christians put tolerance above justice, they harm not only themselves, but Muslims as well. Christians need to ask whether the current conciliatory approach to Islam is just toward all those Muslims who suffer under the barbarities of sharia law. As has often been noted, the main victims of Islam are Muslims. Should Christians be more worried about offending the sensibilities of some Muslims, or should they be concerned about the men, women, and children who are oppressed by Islamic laws? Tolerance is fine up to a point, but as Thomas Mann observed, "Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil."

One thing seems clear. It is well past time for Christians to throw off their complacency and begin instead to think more deeply about what Islam is and what is at stake if we allow it to take root in our societies. And if Christians need to readjust their thinking, so too do Muslims. It is ironic that our society, which believes so strongly in change, nevertheless insists on the unchangeability of other people's beliefs. It is one of the legacies of multiculturalism that we have come to believe that our own culture is infinitely malleable, while believing that non-Western cultures are immutable. Because we think Muslim beliefs can never be changed, we never suggest that they ought to be changed.

It seems time to chart a different course. Any adequate response to the threat from Islam will require us to push Muslims to rethink their faith on the most basic level. In this regard, critics of Islam tend to avoid the main question in favor of secondary questions. The secondary questions are: Is Islam a religion of peace? Is Islam compatible with modern values? Are women treated fairly under sharia law? The main question is: Did Muhammad actually receive a revelation from God? That is really the heart of the matter. As long as Muslims believe that Muhammad received his marching orders from God, the Islamic jihad will continue. But take away the divine mandate to subjugate everyone, and you take away the rationale for Islam's war against the world.

Because the driving force behind Islamic aggression is Islamic theology, we can no longer afford to treat Islamic theology as a protected species. Paradoxically, the best way to secure peace and, at the same time, to show our love for Muslims is to instill doubts about Islam in the minds of Muslims. At the same time, of course, we must make sure that we have something better to offer in its place.

Muhammad said that he came as a "warner." The pages ahead are a warning about the threat from the religion he founded. But this book is intended to serve as more than a wake-up call. Many others have discussed the dangers posed by Islam, but not many say what can be done about it. In addition to analyzing the threat, this book lays out the practical steps that both Christians and non-Christians can take to push back against the spread of Islam. At the same time, it offers guidelines for countering the efforts of Islam's many enablers in the West.



The following is a portion of the introduction to the Ignatius Press book Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, by Mary Eberstadt. Click here for more information about, and to order a copy of, the book.



Introduction

Time magazine and Francis Fukuyama, Raquel Welch and a series of popes, some of the world's leading scientists, and many other unlikely allies all agree: No single event since Eve took the apple has been as consequential for relations between the sexes as the arrival of modern contraception. Moreover, there is good reason for their agreement. By rendering fertile women infertile with nearly 100 percent accuracy, the Pill and related devices have transformed the lives and families of the great majority of people born after their invention. Modern contraception is not only a fact of our time; it may even be the central fact, in the sense that it is hard to think of any other whose demographic, social, behavioral, and personal fallout has been as profound.

For many decades now, prescient people have understood as much. Though these days contraception as such attracts little interest in secular academia, being more or less simply taken for granted as a fact of life, such neglect was not always the rule. As early as I929, for example, fabled social observer Walter Lippmann was calling attention to the radical implications of reliable birth control — even explicitly agreeing with the Catholic Church in his classic book A Preface to Morals that modern contraception "is the most revolutionary practice in the history of sexual morals." In 2010 — the year that the Pill celebrated its fiftieth anniversary — that early verdict appeared wholly vindicated, as an outpouring of reflections on that anniversary affirmed the ongoing and colossal changes that optional and intentional sterility in women has wrought.

The technological revolution of modern contraception has in turn fueled the equally widely noted "sexual revolution" — defined here and elsewhere as the ongoing destigmatization of all varieties of nonmarital sexual activity, accompanied by a sharp rise in such sexual activity, in diverse societies around the world (most notably, in the most advanced). And though professional nitpickers can and do quibble about the exact nature of the connection between the two epochal events, the overall cause and effect is plain enough. It may be possible to imagine the Pill being invented without the sexual revolution that followed, but imagining the sexual revolution without the Pill and other modern contraceptives simply cannot be done.

Like the technological revolution that occasioned it, this sexual revolution, too, has long attracted the attention of social observers. In I956, for example, the towering twentieth-century sociologist Pitirim Sorokin — founder of Harvard's Department of Sociology — published a short book called The American Sex Revolution. Written for a general audience and much discussed in its time, it forcefully linked what Sorokin variously called "sex freedom" and "sex anarchy" to a long list of what he argued were critical social ills, including rising rates of divorce and illegitimacy, abandoned and neglected children, a coarsening of the arts high and low, and much more, including the apparent increase in mental disorders. "Sex obsession," argued Sorokin, now "bombards us continuously, from cradle to grave, from all points of our living space, at almost every step of our activity, feeling, and thinking."

Around the same time, another celebrated secular Harvard sociologist, Carle Zimmerman, published his masterwork of history and sociology called Family and Civilization.6 Though less immediately concerned with the sexual revolution as such than Sorokin had been in his more popularized text, Zimmerman's work likewise casts obvious, albeit tacit, criticism upon the social changes unleashed by modern contraception. Family and Civilization repeatedly linked declines in civilization to the features of what the author called "the atomistic family" type, including rising divorce rates, increasing promiscuity, juvenile delinquency, and neglect of children and other family responsibilities. These were features of modern society that Zimmerman, like Sorokin (and many other people in those days), judged to be self-evidently malignant. "The United States," Zimmerman concluded, "will reach the final phases of a great family crisis between now [1947] and the last of this century" — one "identical in nature to the two previous crises in Greece and Rome."

Of course one need not be a Harvard sociologist to grasp that the technological severing of nature from nurture has changed some of the most elemental connections among human beings. Yet plainly, the atmosphere surrounding discussion of these changes has changed radically between our own time and that of the mid-twentieth century. What Zimmerman felt free to say in the I940s and Sorokin in the I950s about the downside of changing mores are by and large not things that most people feel free to say about our changed moral code today — not unless they strive to be written off as religious zealots or as the blogosphere's laughingstock du jour. Again, as the celebrations of the Pill's fiftieth anniversary went to show, the sexual revolution is now not only a fait accompli for the vast majority of modern men and women; it is also one that many people openly embrace. Fifty years after the Pill's approval and counting, it is beyond question that liberationists and not traditionalists have written the revolution's public legacy across the West.

In this standard celebratory rendition, the sexual revolution has been a nearly unmitigated boon for all humanity. Along with its permanent backup plan, abortion, it has liberated women from the slavery of their fertility, thus freeing them for personal and professional opportunities they could not have enjoyed before. It has liberated men, too, from their former chains, many would argue — chiefly from the bondage of having to take responsibility for the women they had sex with and/or for the children that resulted. It has also enriched children, some would posit, by making it easier to limit family size, and hence share the pie of family wealth and attention among fewer claimants. "In my mind," as one modern historian summarized the standard script, "there can be no doubt that, on the whole, the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s improved the quality of life for most Americans."

It is the contention of this book that such benign renditions of the story of the sexual revolution are wrong. That is to say, they are critically incomplete when measured against the weight of the evidence now before us....

(Click here to read a review of Adam and Eve after the Pill by Father C. John McCloskey III.)

© Matt C. Abbott

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

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