In the Country that Used to Be England…

In the Country that Used to Be England… April 13, 2012

…a watery post-Christian secularism that is deeply indebted to Christian teachings about humility and warnings against judgmentalism from Jesus (which anti-Christian UK culture has used to great effect in beating down Christians who rightly fear the sin of pride) is suddenly confronted with–and utterly flummoxed by–an inflamed and diseased Radical Islamic tradition that completely lacks anything in its theological and cultural DNA corresponding to these warnings from Jesus. A fascinating spectacle of helpless confusion faced with icy pride results.

It will be interesting to see if folks like poor woman in the video learn to reclaim a healthy spirituality which alone can cope with this evil, or if they just fall back on empty nostrums described by Manning’s Corollary and brainlessly conclude that if you’ve seen only Abrahamic religion, you’ve seen ’em all.

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  • Andy, Bad Person

    While I agree with your characterization of the woman being “the poor woman in the video,” since she just doesn’t understand what is happening, I still find it difficult to sympathize too much with her.

    To me, the whole video looks like she went looking for a fight, found one, and then got upset by what she found.

    • ds

      My thoughts exactly. She acted outraged because a devout muslim man told her non-muslims are not going to heaven. Well! I never!

    • Mark Shea

      Precisely. She lives in a culture that believes the unspoken contract is, “In any conflict between enlightened post-Christian secularism and religion, the religious person will be shamed by charges of judgmentalism and back down, thereby vindicating the cultural narrative of secular triumph for the camera”. The Radical Muslim refused to play by the rules, and the silly woman was reduced to tears. Not a promising forecast for watery post-Christian secularism.

  • MTD

    I’m in London right now and this morning the lowbrow commuter newspaper Metro had a story on a London university that fears offending the 20% of its student body that is Muslim and may therefore close down all the bars on campus.

  • An Atheist

    It isn’t like the Christian solution to these thugs isn’t lacking. What ae you going to do? Tell them you love them? Im sure that will make them quake in their boots. The most outspoken opponents of radical Islam have been secularists and atheists, and we don’t have any guilt about hating our enemies and defeating them.

    • Jared

      “we don’t have any guilt about hating our enemies and defeating them.”

      You say that as if hate and violence is difficult, my friend.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. Atheism has majored in giving the world the gift of hatred–all while lecturing theists on their sinful violence. You really are remarkably un-self-reflective.

  • An Atheist

    And its also a bit rich that this is coming from a religion whose head at one time lovingly kissed a Koran.

    • Wow, that’s the first time I’ve seen an atheist forfeiting his right to criticize Christians as violent before. So far on this thread you have acknowledged that the head of our Church respects Islam (which is a good thing: respecting a major faith), and that atheists are more likely to hate their enemies in faith.

      Gonna have to put the Crusades card away now, aren’t you?

    • ds

      You can’t actually see his lips touching the Koran:

      I’m pretty sure he was just smelling the binding. Or could have been a vile muslim ruse!
      “Your eminence, can you make out this ISBN number stamped here on the back?”
      “Let me look up close, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.”
      “Whoa, look at that! He’s kissin it! Your pope kissed our Koran!”
      Also possible that JPII was a secret muslim, just like Obama. Or perhaps:,1585/

    • Rosemarie


      I’ve explained the former pontiff’s actions before to irate traditionalists and fundamentalists. I never thought I’d have to explain it to an atheist, but here goes…

      The Quran he kissed had just been given to him as a gift. My husband’s Coptic (Egyptian) Catholic friend once explained to us that kissing a gift as a gesture of respect to the giver is a custom in the Middle East. Consequently, he was not offended by the pope’s gesture; he assumed the pope was politely receiving it as a gift, not showing religious reverence for its contents.

      BTW, here is what Bl. John Paul II himself had to say about the Quran, from his book, _Crossing the Threshold of Hope_:

      “Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.

      “Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp.92-93).

      We should look at the Quran-kissing incident in the light of the former pope’s personal attitude toward that book. He obviously did not consider it equal to the Bible and in fact saw it as a “step backward” from the New Testament. So his gesture must clearly mean something other than reverence.

  • Caine

    Kinda makes you think the Crusades were not such a bad idea after all.

    • Jared

      Actually, they weren’t. The Crusades were defensive wars to stop the violent expansion of Islam, to rescue the Christians in their territory, and to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. That’s a good idea.

      In practice, many of the Crusaders did some horrible things.

      • kenneth

        For one thing, they created a wonderful heroic narrative for today’s young jihadis who can use it to spin their own economic frustrations into an overarching global struggle of the West vs Islam.

        • Matthew

          To be honest I never understood that narrative. After all the Muslims WON the crusades, the West and Christianity LOST. The whole Muslim narrative sounds like the USA complaining how it lost the WWII to Germany.

          • kenneth

            Japan lost WW II as well, but that didn’t stop Filipinos and Chinese from having a sense of grievance against the Japanese for a long time after that either. Wars of occupation by foreigners that go after something as basic as your religion don’t sit well with folks, and cultural memories last centuries longer than any one generation of humans.

            • Dale Price

              Truth be told, the Crusades did not loom large in Islamic thinking prior to the modern era. Given that it was a loss of territory on the periphery, that is quite understandable. The Muslim states of the 12th Century (and smarter Outremer rulers) were quite willing to come to a modus vivendi.

              More upsetting at the time was the loss of Spain, which really drove the Muslim world to gnashing of teeth.

              The upset over the Crusades is modern and more than a little manufactured (and convenient).

              • kenneth

                The crusades would be ancient irrelevant history except that we keep furninish provocations that lead people to believe we’re still fighting them. At the same time we’re telling the world that our fight is with terrorism, not Islam, we have elements of our military destroying Korans, proselytizing to Afghans, and defense contractors inscribing Bible verses on gun sights.

        • Dale Price

          Economic frustrations? Nonsense.

          Bin Laden was richer than Croesus, and Zawahiri was upper middle class. Most of Al Qaeda’s leadership has come from material comfort, in fact. Ditto the Wahhabi paymasters funding their particularly gruesome interpretation of Islam from the air-conditioned KSA. Pretending that economics is the main driver of Islamic terror is…pretending.

          • Beadgirl

            But notice how those wealthy leaders are rarely the ones to “martyr” themselves with suicide attacks; for that they depend on a lot of young angry men who have little in the way of true educational or job prospects. If the various Islamic countries (and, frankly, we, given the state we left Afghanistan in in the 1980s) had actually been concerned with developing their infrastructure, educational system, job opportunities, health care, etc., instead of consolidating oil wealth in the hands of a few (for example), I don’t think these leaders would have nearly as many followers.

            There was also a book a few years ago whose thesis was that as Islamic countries gain a true middle class and upper middle class, there is less terrorism or violence. People who actually have something to protect are less likely to be drawn to Islamic extremism. In fact, another more recent book pointed out that Islamic immigrants tend to be better integrated into American society than, say, French or British society, and the theory was that it was the culture of the “American Dream” that we have — the immigrants have a better chance of obtaining some measure of wealth and stability here.

          • kenneth

            You’re talking about the elite of the terror movements. Those folks are always drawn from the elite in the society in which they’re born, regardless of what revolution we’re talking about – communist, Islamist, anything. The 99% of the radical movements that do the killing and dying for the cause are those who have no meaningful economic or political prospects. They are people who feel they have nothing to lose.

            • PM

              Te fascinating thing about Bin laden and many of his type is that they have educations in those very modern fields of appiled science and engineering – something that should give technological ‘progressives’ food for thought. Part of the probem is that they read highy figurative language in the Koran as if it were an engineering blueprint – much as the loony ‘Left Behind’ tendency does in American ‘Christianity’.

        • Ted Seeber

          Actually, THEY didn’t. The Legend of the Crusades was utterly forgotten in the Middle East until the 1950s- there’s a huge gap in between the ACTUAL crusades, and today’s modern stories being told to young jihadists.

          It is almost as bad as the Legend of King Arthur in England, who supposedly lived in the 600s, was first mentioned in history books in the 900s, was kind of fleshed out by Welsh storytellers in the 1300s, and whom most of which we actually know was invented as a children’s story by TH White in 1938.

  • kenneth

    I don’t have much sympathy for the Brits or Europeans in general on this issue. They created the conditions on the ground for radical Islam to thrive, and that had nothing to do with secularism or European Christianity “going soft.” It’s pure economics. A generation or so ago, they imported these folks from their former empire by the millions to do scut labor.
    They happily did so, and most of them had no radical inclinations whatsoever. Remember much of the Muslim world in the 60s and 70s was tilting secular, especially among those with any education. Muslim immigrants to Europe figured they’d toil away, and their kids would make the rest of the climb and make it all worthwhile – you know, college, full integration, the whole bit. The Brits and others had different plans for them. They were a throwaway workforce. By generation two, there’s no more manual jobs, no slots in school or upwardly mobile professions, and isolation in concrete ghettos with no hope for anything better.
    Now, selling radical Islam to these young guys is as easy as selling sex on a troop ship. “Hey, kid, how would you like to dedicate your life to something that really matters?”….
    The antidote to radicalism is not more stridency in some other religion. It’s jobs. Nothing cures young men of idiocy better than middle class living.

    • Nothing cures young men of idiocy better than middle class living.


    • godescalc

      There are some terrorists who join up because a downtrodden existence gives them a hunger for meaning – Saudi Arabia has a program for rehabilitating militants by giving them jobs and even arranging marriages, to deal with this problem. But quite a few are comfortable middle class types, who are susceptible to radical ideas because they find the comfortable middle class life lacking in meaning; some (as Dale Price pointed out upthread) were stinking rich. These people are not going to give up their radical ideas because someone offers them a job.

      And yeah, middle class living is really not an antidote to idiocy. I don’t think an antidote to idiocy exists, but if it does, I doubt it involves giving people more leisure time in which to generate silly ideas.

      • Exactly.

        Occupy “Wherever” comes to mind…….

      • kenneth

        If the mere fact of Muslim identity is a predictor of violence independent of economic and political considerations, than my own neighborhood should be one of the most dangerous places on Earth. On any given day, at least a third of the people I encounter within a two-mile radius of my place are Muslim. On some days in some establishments, you’d swear you were in downtown Lahore or Islamabad. Huge mosque a three minute drive from my door. For all that, I’ve never had a near miss with an IED or saw the aftermath of a suicide bomber. Never even had a Muslim raise their voice to me or get in my face about religion. I’ve had plenty of ugly run-ins with religious extremists, but none of them so far has been Muslim.

        • Like so many things, it may be about who, where, and when. I’ve not seen any violence by Muslims in my area since 9/11. Then again, not since 9/11 or before have I seen violence against Muslims in my area either. Meanwhile, I have friends from Nigeria who do not hold the same optimism about Islam = Peace. While I’m sure there has been violence against Muslims in or around our country.

  • An Atheist

    Mark–the Soviets were petty damn effectictive at de-Islamizing central asia. Burning burkas and veils public bonfires is more effective than kissing disgusting books like the Koran.

    • Dale Price

      Not really. They drove it underground. There’s a reason it’s revived so quickly. Perhaps more effective is the Chinese slaughter of the Uighurs, but that might not be stern enough for your tastes.

      But it is nice to see an atheist admit to spiritual kinship with the Soviet Union for once, instead of playing the “No True Scotsman” game with that avowedly-atheist regime.

    • The Soviets? Well, if nothing else, you keep me guessing.

    • Jared

      Are you seriously holding up the Soviets as some kind of ideal to be imitated?

    • Chris M

      Yes, just look at the secular paradise they made of Afghanistaohwait.

    • Mark Shea

      I join Dale in applauding your for you frank and open admission of sympathy for utopian totalitarian butchers instead of the wussy denialism of New Atheists who attempt the No True Scotsman trick. Spoken like a true atheist.

  • An Atheist

    No, Jared. I am saying its not true secularism is incapable of standing up to Islam.

    • Yeah, so long as the secularists have a gun. Why argue when you can shoot them?

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
        -Mao Zedong

  • Ted Seeber

    Reminds me of a cartoon I saw in a liberal newspaper- a woman in a burka and a woman in a bikini both thinking “poor woman, she’s being oppressed by her misogynistic culture”.

    • Rosemarie


      Heh. Well, yeah, those are the two extremes. Immodest clothing objectifies women by drawing men’s eyes away from her face, while the burkha covers her face completely which diminishes her personhood and humanity another way. She is reduced to either a sex object or a walking carpet. Properly modest clothing, OTOH, keeps the face visible and draws the eyes toward it more than the body so that others can relate to her as a person.

      • Ted Seeber

        So the ideal female clothing is a nun’s habit?

  • math_geek

    “I don’t judge you because I’m above that.”

    Mark, you did not tell me you were linking to a comedy routine.

  • An Atheist

    Colin if they’re jihadists that want to bomb skyscrapers putting a bullet in their head or dropping a cluster bomb sounds like the right answer to me. If they’re not violent, deport them to their ancestral craphole before they turn us into a coarbon copy of it. A little more effective than praying for them, for sure.

    • Roberto

      More effective for what purpose? Creating more violence and resentment? Reinforcing their message that aggressiveness is the way to go? Is that your idea of contributing positively to the world?

    • Michael O.

      How’s the past 10 years of bombing the Middle East worked? Terrorism and Islamism are completely absent from Iraq and Afghanistan, right?

  • antigon

    “if they’re jihadists that want to bomb skyscrapers putting a bullet in their head or dropping a cluster bomb sounds like the right answer to me.”

    Dear Mr. A: You say this as a member, or former member, of a) which U.S. armed force branch, or b) which pajama brigade?

    “If they’re not violent, deport them to their ancestral craphole before they turn us into a coarbon copy of it. A little more effective than praying for them, for sure.”

    Not always. Didn’t work when the Serbs tried it, tho perhaps they’d’ve done better had they, like your Soviet cohorts , embraced MacBeth’s theories more resolutely. Still, atheism’s Soviet branch had some shortcomings too, it could be argued, expert as they were at putting bullets in people’s heads.

    • Noah D

      “if they’re jihadists that want to bomb skyscrapers putting a bullet in their head or dropping a cluster bomb sounds like the right answer to me.”

      Dear Mr. A: You say this as a member, or former member, of a) which U.S. armed force branch, or b) which pajama brigade?

      Whoa there. If he’s got an opinion that the US military should be used for a particular purpose, he’s got to be a member, or his opinion is illegitimate?

      • kenneth

        People who are cheerleaders for war and “let’s just go in and bomb the crap out of them” and who have no military experience or any family members in harm’s way are, by definition, chickenhawks, and no, their opinion shouldn’t be accorded much weight.

    • Ted Seeber

      I actually went through a stage like this- in the first year after 9/11, I actually thought it would be a good idea to trap the Middle East’s oil under a couple hundred feet of Tritium Glass (look it up- it’s quite plentiful, apparently, in the Nevada Desert near where they used to test nuclear weapons- and it’s odd name comes from Catholicism twisted by the Military into the Trinity Project, which first produced it).

      I gradually realized, through many years of comparative theology study, that #1: Not all Islamics are like that and #2: anger is still a sin even when you call it just.

  • Vincent

    I think the confusion dealing with Islam should start with the equivalency of all cultures defined by the West elitists a long time ago. When Islam asserting its superiority over the West (by telling everyone in the West go to hell) making the ruling class effectively confusing because if telling these Islam that they are wrong, it will go against their own premise that all cultures are the same.

  • Will

    As the faceless atheist (no doubt hiding from the wrath of the Sheavian Inquisition) demonstrates, the attacks on Christianity (I refused to dignify them by calling them “arguments”) are not only conflicting, but directly contradict each other. Christians are violent persecutors…. but not violent enough toward Moslems…. although “TheCrusades” are a self-evident discreditment.

    As Chesterton notes, any stick will do to beat Christianity with.

    • kenneth

      Christianity has carved a perfectly good stick with which others use to beat it, as have all religions and movements, including Islam. I don’t buy the idea that Islam is a “religion of peace” nor the assertion that is it some inherently violent movement from which only Christianity can save us. Both religions have inspired their followers to good, and both have shed oceans of blood in their name. Apologists for each will, of course, assert that those were aberrations and nothing to do with the actual religion itself (an utterly meaningless distinction to victims).
      Both Christianity and Islam have the tools, as most religions have in varying measures, to lead people to spiritual greatness. Both also hold an obvious and terrible allure for extremists seeking justification and a narrative for murder torture and warfare. There is no meaningful difference in the scale or quality of evil undertaken in the name of either religion, nor of any other movement like communism, which claim a mandate and ability to perfect human society at all costs.
      In recent times, Christianity has, in general, done far better than Islam is in many quarters today. That’s not because Christianity is all white light and butterflies and just leads people to do good things in contrast to Muslims. It’s because Christian societies have had the time and experience to undergo many forces that tempered extremism and ferocity. Over a very bloody and bumpy centuries long road, the West developed modern systems of commerce, widespread literacy, a tradition of the rule of law and democracy and pluralism, a decline of clericalism, reformations, traditions of open and contentious intellectual debate over theology, and on and on. The host cultures of Christianity have also undergone lots of advances in understandings of womens and human rights. Not that we come anywhere close to realizing those lofty ideals, but the machinery is in place and runs when we apply ourselves to it. Islamic societies, by and large, have a lot of work to do in these areas. As a result, the more extreme movements find a lot of fertile ground in these regions.

      • Rosemarie


        I think there’s less of an equivalency between Christianity and Islam than what you present. The former was founded by a Man who eschewed violence and taught His followers to “turn the other cheek.” The early Christians did not spread their Faith by the sword, and though there would later be occasions where people were threatened with violence if they refused to convert, that was the exception rather than the rule. Conversion was still mostly accomplished as Christ intended, through peaceful missionary work and not by the sword.

        Islam’s founder, OTOH, was a warlord who unapologetically spread his religion by the sword, and his followers continued this long after his death. This is abundantly evident in the Quran and Hadiths; they make no attempt whatsoever to deny or hide this fact. So Christian apologists have more credibility when they say that violence in the name of Christianity is an aberration.

  • Ryan Chestine

    Hey Mr. Shea, I have read your second book in the Marian Trillogy and I am a Roman Catholic young man originally from Monroe, WA. I attend Franciscan University of Steubenville right now and I was attending an extra credit talk by a very interesting Catholic Writer. He prefers Science Fiction, and he is very witty, with a striking sense of humor….by the end of the talk I already knew that he knew you. By his interests, his writing, and his uniqueness in the field of writing I just felt somewhere deep inside that there was no way that you two didn’t know each other. So I asked to make sure, and what do ya know, John C. Wright was his name. =)

    • Mark Shea

      Ha! Yes, John is co-founder with Yr. Obdt. Svt. of the Wright/Shea Mutual Admiration Society (I’d tell you how to join, but then I’d have to kill you). The guy is first rate and, yes, extremely funny. Was he speaking in Steubenville? In any case, I am jealous. I’m glad you got to hear him!

  • Brennan

    I have to second Rosemarie’s comments on Islam and Christianity. Islam has a blanket justification for violence against infidels if they don’t submit. Christianity doesn’t. The times Christianity has used force, such as the Inquisition or the Crusades, there were rational reasons behind them. We should be thankful that the Crusaders stopped Islam from taking over all of Europe. Both Islam and Communism are the type of movements that have demonstrated they would take over the entire world if they could and weren’t stopped militarily.

    Democracy and pluralism haven’t necessarily led to a morally greater society, unless one counts abortion on demand and contraception, along with the breakdown of the family and a consumerist society mainly indifferent to the higher things of life a large step forward.

  • What is needed is a return to her, that is England’s, long standing Christian heritage and an effective evangelization in word and deed of the Muslim and the Atheist. IMO, if we are not down on our knees in prayer about this matter then we have nothing to talk about here. God bless.