I decided to take down the cat crucifixion story

Just not sourced well enough. No need to borrow trouble. Meanwhile, between stonings of women, or cutting off their noses, or putting Down’s syndrome kids on trial for blasphemy, or beheadings, or car bombings, or blowing up Buddhist art, or massive oppression of Coptic Christians, or massive oppression of Chaldean Christians, or Christians martyred to the tune of 150,000 a year (and an awful lot of them martyred by the Religion of Peace) my point remains the same: while the majority of Muslims in the west function perfectly well and are good and decent folk, the fact remains that as a civilization-forming matrix, Islam is in major crisis and produces a bumper crop–a growing bumper crop–of radicalized people who are on a fast track toward the Bronze Age and whose primary enemies are not the largely mythical and unseen Jews and Americans they never meet, but the fellow Muslims they blow up in their mosque bombings.

Of course, many of these savage morons do live in the West too and blow up discos, subways and so forth when they are not beating or slaughtering their daughters for dating outside the Umma, or disseminating the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, or behaving and thinking like the hapless gits in Four Lions.

When your God is God who is so despotic and controlling he cannot even allow secondary causes, there is not going to be a matrix which allows for human freedom or the sciences to grow. Mike Flynn describes the problem in an essay you really should read:

Islam denied secondary causation. According to Maimonides [Guide to the Perplexed], Islamic theologians asserted that “when a man moves a pen, it is not the man who moves it; for the motion occurring in the pen is an accident created by God in the pen. Similarly the motion of the hand, which we think of as moving the pen, is an accident created by God in the moving hand. Only God has instituted the habit that the motion of the hand is concomitant with the motion of the pen, without the hand exercising in any respect an influence on, or being causative in regard to, the motion of the pen.” Al-Ghazali asserted in Tahafut al Falasifa [The Incoherence of Philosophy], that fire did not burn cloth. God caused the fire, and God caused the blackening and disintegration of the cloth; and it was only the habit of God that the one followed the other. Unlike Anselm of Canterbury, ibn Hazn claimed God need not even be faithful to these “habits.” Al-Ghazali wrote [in the Tahafut], “The imponderable decisions of God cannot be weighed by the scales of reason.” The great faylasuf Ibn Rushd countered with Tahafut al Tahafut [The Incoherence of the Incoherence], but in 1195 he was stripped of all his offices and exiled. As “Averröes,” his popularity in Europe was second only to Aristotle, but little noteworthy science was created in Islam after his time.

“The problems of physics,” wrote Ibn Khaldûn, “are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods; therefore we must leave them alone.” An exception was made for the “practical sciences” of astronomy, medicine, etc., where Muslim scholars made outstanding contributions of facts. But laws of nature and explanatory theories smacked of men limiting God’s autonomy.

In short, there is a reason that the Islamic world produces lots of despotic regimes and no Nobel Prize winners. It’s not because of race (adherents of Islam come in every race and color, like adherents of Christianity). It’s because of the religion and the culture it creates. When your cosmos is a Master/Slave cosmos, you create a culture and a politics that reflects that. People being people, Muslims remain free to respond to influences outside of Islam, just as Christians respond to influences outside of their religious tradition. So many Muslims are inspired by ideas (many of them Christian ideas, many of them post-Christian ideas) to which other Muslims are deeply hostile and perceive (often rightly) as fundamentally opposed to the doctrines of Islam. Hence the massive internal struggle in Islam, which Christians do well to pay attention to, since Islam must either be purged of its insane radicals, or the world can expect major bloodbaths wherever those radicals go.

Where it will end up, I have no idea. But I am skeptical that Islam is as “strong” as westerners are inclined to fear it is. I think Islam is, in many ways, very brittle. The problem is, post-Christian Western culture is even weaker. What we as Catholics can do is what we have always done when we listen to the Faith and not to the human traditions that blow around our politics and our culture: make common cause with non-Catholics (including Muslims) wherever possible. The Islamic tradition, for instance, has a strong emphasis on the same pillars of piety as Judaism and Christianity: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (Read, for instance, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6-8: the whole thing is a discussion of the Christian life as lived out in prayer, fasting, and almsiving). Islam has great reserves of healthy natural law morality (which is why it is repelled by the unnatural morality of the post-Christian west). Catholics can make common cause with this and, as opportunity presents itself, present the Christian case for perfecting natural law with supernatural revelation (that’s what Jesus is doing when he says, “You have heard that it was said ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to your ‘love your enemy'”). Of course, that means that we Christians will have to do all that stuff we talk about, but Jesus says the thing is doable with his help.

The point is, Islam depends, to a very large degree on either natural law or elements of biblical revelation. We as Catholics can affirm and strengthen what is true in Islam in the hope that it will help to defeat what is false and evil in Islam. Not to “save Islam” but to save Muslims–for whom Christ died.

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  • Thomas

    Very nicely written.
    This is an important and fundamental cultural as well as religious difference that should get a lot more discussion.

    ‘“The problems of physics,” wrote Ibn Khaldûn, “are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods; therefore we must leave them alone.” An exception was made for the “practical sciences” of astronomy, medicine, etc., where Muslim scholars made outstanding contributions of facts. But laws of nature and explanatory theories smacked of men limiting God’s autonomy.’

  • Kirt Higdon

    Just to update, the Down’s syndrome kid has not been but on trial for blasphemy but has been released and her accuser, a Moslem cleric, has himself been arrested for blasphemy.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Praise God!!!

      And have mercy…

      • Thomas

        That is indeed great news.

        God be praised!

        • Thomas

          And pray for justice and mercy for the accuser now under trial.

  • Ted Seeber

    I suspect, using the hindsight of Historical Perspective- that one could have said the same about Christianity between 1300-1700.

    And by The Year of the Prophet, it is now 1390. Those who fail to understand history are always doomed to repeat it.

    • JoFro

      It seems you may be one of those people who fail to understand history in this instance.

      What exactly do you mean by Christianity between 1300 – 1700? Are you implying there was some Dark Age during this period? Yes, the Black Plague hit Christians in Europe but Christianity was much further spread.

      Are we talking of Christians in Western Europe under the Pope? Byzantine and Russian Christians under their Patriarchs? Arab and Coptic Christians under their patriarchs and Popes, who also happened to be living under Islamic rule?

      While Christian culture in the West during the 1300s and 1400s very much collapsed (the Black Plague has a way of doing that), there was a healthy and thriving Christian culture around that same time in Byzantium.
      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/34511/Aristotelianism/33146/From-the-Byzantine-renaissance-to-the-15th-century – a look at Aristotelianism at differnt eras

      And heck, the Italian Renaissance began in the 14th century prompted by Greek texts and later when Constantinople was captured, more arrived. This was somthing that the Catholic Church was very much involved in.

      There were travels to Mongol China by Catholic missionaries like Ricci during this time period as well, which opened the new Enlightenment thinkers to new teachings from the East, especially to something the Jesuit missionaries had translated from China – the teachings of a Master Kong – we know him as Confucious!
      The period from 1400 – 1700 was one of the most interesting epochs of Christendom – both East and West.

      As for trying to date Islam -saying that the Muslims are right now in their “Dark Ages” becos it is 1390, this is absurd and shows a very Euro-centric view.
      Islam, unlike Christianity, did not suffer for 300yrs as an illegal religion under some foreign emperors – it was an empire-building religion from the get go and in fact was leading the world in the sciences within 2 centuries of taking over the civilised world. Alot of these advances were made by newly converted Persians and Greeks, with some Arabs also taking part in it. But within 2 centuries of expansion and globalisation, these advances had stopped.
      In fact by the 17th century, even the Turks, who the most formidable empire at the time, were teachnologically backward compared to the sea-faring Republic of Venice!

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Without necessarily disagreeing with Mr. Shea’s main thrust here, I have two objections to points admittedly incidental to that thrust, but objectionable nonetheless:
    The figure cited of 150,ooo Christians killed, though attributable to Muslims largely, includes Christians killed by Hindus, and at least once even by Buddhists (in Sri Lanka), as well as those killed by Communists (North Korea, China, etc.), and by corrupt thugs (perhaps Catholic) or corrupt governments, in Latin America.
    For Mike Flynn to say, based on what some Muslim author or theological school holds, that “Islam” affirms or denies something, is an astonishing non sequitur, seeing that some Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic theologians or schools have likewise maintained some nonsense or other, which even some of their co-religionists have denounced: nonsense, therefore, which it doesn’t follow is attributable to Judaism itself or to Christianity itself.

  • MattyD

    “We as Catholics can affirm and strengthen what is true in Islam in the hope that it will help to defeat what is false and evil in Islam.”

    What a friggin great piece. That’s the kind of wisdom we need dominating the Christian response to Islam, IMHO. If more of us think this way, maybe we can drown out our own faction of proto-extremist, clash-of-culture warmongers, a la Pam Geller, Pastor Jones and Fox News.

  • nick

    I think the point Ted may have been making is that during this time (despite how healthy and thriving Christian culture may have been) such modern values as freedom of speech and freedom of religion did not exist. Particularly in the west Christians tortured, mutilated and killed each other (often by burning alive) for holding the “wrong” beliefs. If someone had dared to write a text about Jesus as offensive as this recent video was toward Mohammad the reaction would have been similar.
    In most Islamic cultures these same modern values still do not exist and so in this respect these cultures resemble Christianity from 1300-1700.