The fear of the known 5

Islam dare not reform or modernize for fear of destroying itself, Barry Rubin conjectures.

He writes that first the Reformation, and then the nineteenth century attempt to adapt Christianity to the modern age, worked a disenchantment among Christians resulting in an irreversible decline of the faith itself, and that in the light of this history Islam fears to change.

Scholars in the Age of Science hoped to reconcile science and religion but found them irreconcilable. Others went  in search of the historical Jesus, and the more they discerned of that dim figure, the more effectively they disentangled him from the Christian religion.

By the time this process was finished, huge numbers had fallen away from belief, while what remained in many churches, especially among the elite, is a sort of pious-flavored combination of social justice and social-climbing without much presence of divinity. Such arid religion is not particularly successful in inspiring, much less retaining, members. …

Western political, cultural, and intellectual elites today are, whatever patina of hypocrisy remains, overwhelmingly atheist. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing. It’s simply my observation and analysis.

We see it as a distinctly Good Thing.

Rubin goes on to say the churches are aware that the more their members know  about science and history, the more likely they are to defect:

Evangelical churches retain their enthusiasm, but they have a difficult choice: do they try to shield their members, deeming knowledge unsafe for them, or can they really create an alternative elite that remains steadfast? The unpalatable alternatives often seem to be ignorance or defection.

To be conventional rather than consciously hypocriticial, politicians pretend t0 believe.

Still, it is necessary for at least those members of the elite engaged in politics to pretend they have some religious faith….

Then he goes on to suggest that Islam, seeing what happened to religion in the West, fears to start a process of reform which could be similarly lethal:

My interest is how this affects Islam and the Middle East. In light of this Western history, how strong is the motive to reform Islam?

The answer is that it is far less strong than outside observers may think. The year is 2010, not 1517 when Martin Luther proclaimed his revolt against the Catholic Church and could in full confidence believe his reform would strengthen Christianity, as it arguably did for several centuries. Can Muslims believe the equivalent of that idea today?

It is 2010, not the 1820s or 1830s when [scholars] could believe that a thorough critical inquiry into Christianity would preserve its hegemony in European society. Can Muslims believe the equivalent of that idea today?

Islam suffers not due to any military or economic aggression of the West, but from the pervasiveness of apparently Western — but really more generically modern — ideas. For the great majority of believing Muslims, any serious reform of their religion is risky, probably too risky, to undertake and still expect the patient will survive. …

Here, then, is the paradox. Only massive social change, secularizing intellectuals, open debate, a critical examination of the most basic religious beliefs, a transformation of the role of women, and similar things can open up a modern society in Muslim-majority societies. Yet … the 2010 Muslim would see [such change] as suicide…

He thinks that fighting to preserve and spread their religion is a “logical response” on the part of Muslims who fear change, and the jihad  we are being subjected to is a struggle against modernity.

Conversely, to dig in, kill the critics, raise the walls higher, try to shut out (or severely constrain) modernity, and demagogically stoke the fires of jihad really is a logical response for those who want to preserve their religion and society as it has existed for centuries.

And he pessimistically expects that the fight could be continued for centuries, since there are “many in the Muslim-majority world ready to die trying” to avoid adaptation to the modern world.

Many who would rather cling to their belief in the unknown than trust themselves to the known!

But we ask, what if the secular world fights back?

We think that when the West comes round (as surely it must?) to recognizing that Islam is its enemy, and uses its political, military, economic, and above all intellectual resources to beat it, that old time religion will soon shrivel, and  eventually, along with all irrational beliefs dating back thousands of years, fade away.

Posted under Commentary, Islam, jihad, Muslims, Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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This post has 5 comments.

  • Tyler520

    It is a self-evident conclusion, in all honesty. Contemporary Islam still resides in the 7th century

  • Bill

    I am confident that truth will win in the end. I am confident that religious belief will dwindle.

    We will probably see a rise in Islam in the U.S. while a decrease in Christianity – for a few decades. It will be scary. But Islam will whither in the end, as will Christianity and all the other big religions in the modern countries.

  • Ralph

    Our earliest ancestors did not understand the world they lived in. They didn’t understand thunder, the sun or how this all was created. To explain this world they created super beings or gods. In short religion is based on ignorance. Modern religion is based on the ignorance of our ancestors. Over many centuries knowledge has begun to replace the ignorance that supports religion. Christianity and Islam must have an uneducated and complacent population to survive. I doubt that ignorance and complacency will disappear soon, but I do think the process has begun. It is our job to ensure the advancement of knowledge.

  • Keith Williams

    Being an atheist isn’t easy although most believers think it is the lazy way out. I used to spend a considerable amount of time trying to rationalize my disbelief until I finally decide to accept that I simply don’t believe in any sort of supreme being and nothing short of said being showing up at my house will make me believe. Conversely if one believes any sort of rational argument only causes them to become more entrenched. What is fun is to start a discussion with a believer and ask why the Christian god is different from the Muslim god and if they are the same why are their believers so different and if they are not the same ask why. My favorite atheist quote is “we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do”. I forget the author but it fits when discussing religions. I have no issue with people believing because I can no more disprove the existence of god than they can prove it but I don’t want to be governed by people who’s morality is held in check by such a scant thread as a belief.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree wholeheartedly with the post until you get to the point that “that old time religion will soon shrivel, and eventually, along with all irrational beliefs dating back thousands of years, fade away.” Christianity has been around for 2000 years and although it might be dead in some places, it is alive and well in many parts of the bible belt and southeast US. My wife is an evangelical Christian and her church is very strong. I don’t know the demographics, but the people I know with the biggest families are devout Christians. I have discussed their beliefs with them and they have faith, regardless of the overwhelming evidence against a benevolent, infinite, loving creator of the universe. They are also many of the kindest, most charitible, hard working people I know, and draw great strength from their faith.