Islamic Persecution of Christianity

Big Popey,” by J.F. Atkinson, Chiasm, 19 September 2006,

FWIW, count me in the ‘WTF Pope?’ legions – despite being a Catholic (if not a particularly orthodox one) and despite finding the fundamentalist frothing at his remarks totally retarded obv, his choice of words seem so-obv-as-to-be-basically-purposely provocative that his soul’s gotta be heavy with guilt over the (obv awful inexcused etc) shooting of a 70-year old Italian nun three times in the back outside a children’s hospital in Somalia and whatever other insane reprisals he has exposed Catholics around the world to. While he was using that quote in the process of making a pretty legit (as far as these things go) point, there’s no reason why he had to use that particular and ripe-for-misrepresentation quote unless A) he really is completely out of touch with the world and/or has a tard for a PR guy, or B) he felt that the provocation served a political-theological agenda more important than the safety of his followers. I’m guessing ‘B’, and if it weren’t the Pope we were talking about I would say that this is ‘kind of a dick move’.

It’s also worth noting, as Christopher Hitchens did today on some C-SPAN jawn, that it’s difficult for even die-hard War on Terrorcrats to be sympathetic on this with a Vatican that sided with these same extremists in condemning the Dutch Mohammed cartoons as blasphemous, no? Wondering if we’re gonna get commentary on this from also-Catholics and staunch connectivists Tom Barnett or Dan tdaxp, who both seem ‘weirdly’ but explicably silent on this issue so far.

Well, I can recognize a smack-down when I see it (and when Sean Meade reminds me by email!). I have been struggling to integrate Pope Benedict XVI’s speech into my series on Jesusism-Paulism, to take the story of the Christians from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, but in the meantime here is my response, slightly reworded:


We live in an exceptional time when two greatest world religions are each re-experiencing the world of their birth.

Christianity is an ideology that is optimized to spread in unipolar environments. It teaches submission to the state and subversion of resources. Christ’s and Paul’s words were particularly effective against the Romans because a military insurgency could never work, but an ideology one might. The goal was not to spread a reborne Israel throughout the Mediterranean but to convert Mediterraneans to be the new Children of Israel.

Islam is designed for a chaotic, post-superpower world. Mohammed’s words were particularly effective because the Romans had previously destroyed the Persian Empire, and much of the world was lawless and disoriented. Islam provided a grand unifying ideal where none existed and spread this through violence that none could resist.

Two-thirds of the world, everything but the Islamic and African states, is as Rome was. Your security is guaranteed by the police, and your state’s security is guaranteed by the American military. Violent confrontation against the system cannot work, so the best method for spreading your beliefs is co-option of the system.

One-third of the world, the African and Islamic states, is as Arabia was. The police are corrupt and the Americans don’t care. Peaceful subversion of the system cannot work, because there is no system. The best way for spreading your beliefs is force.

Hence we see Christianity acting through words and Islam acting through violence. Christianity has been violent, as Islam has been peaceful, but for the first time they are both in their Environment of Evolutionary Adaption simultaneously.

I also take issue with his implication that the Pope is somehow uniquely insensitive to the Catholic faithful. From the beginning, the Church has encouraged martyrdom operations. As I write:

“Insane reprisals” are in no way new to the Catholic faith. Indeed, such martyrdom operations helped spread the faith. If the physical safety of all Catholics was the prime goal of the Church, then suffering under Diocletian and Caiaphas was for not. But then, if the physical safety of all Catholics was the prime goal of the Church, it never would been as successful as it has been.

Islamic persecution — the persecution of others by Islam — and Christian persecution — the persecution of Christianity by others — are how those faiths spread.

“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiasties 1:9

14 thoughts on “Islamic Persecution of Christianity”

  1. Dan,

    Excellent comments, particularly regarding the issue of martyrdom. I think you've cogently characterized the friction between Christianity and Islam.


  2. hey Dan – no smackdown intended at all, just angling for some of your typically thought-provoking and more Cathologically informed commentary on this. I'm coming from a different place in terms of the relationship between my faith and life, but certainly respect your take on this – will post a link to this and maybe some more comments later, need to start paying attention to this excel presentation now!

  3. John,

    No problem. It was a fun comment to make, plus it's fun (and flattering) to be lumped in the same category as Tom. Yesterday Gardner [1], today Barnett, tomorrow the world!

    I look forward to your next work 🙂


    What's your understanding of the friction? I'm not sure if I understand my post 🙂

  4. Although Africa is chaotic, it is there the Christianity is strongest and most resurgent in the world. Africa will be a true religious battle ground.

    After the fall of Rome, in northern Europe, Christianity thrived in chaos, both as a beacon of hope and a repository of civilization. Many African missionaries see themselves as the Irish monks once did.

  5. Dan,

    I wrote a long comment regarding this issue (with bonus points for tying in Benedict's speech), and where did it go? Aaaargh!

    ElamBend makes an excellent point that I did not add. Arica is indeed the fastest-growing area of Christianity, despite being largely in the Gap.

    I'll try to re-create my previous remarks later. Is anyone else having this problem?


  6. Mike,

    You are not alone. Curtis has made similar complaints. [1]

    I have complained, again, to blogspirit. If this happens again,

    /// Click the back button
    Your comment will still be there ///
    Email it to me or submit it in parts

    If you email it to me, I will immediately post it and complain to blogspirit.

    Now that I own the domain, it would be easier to switch to another blog hosting provider. If this keeps up, I will. I know every blog has technical problems (such as the “lost comments” at PC [2]), but I hope this problem is temporary and will go away soon.

    Blogspirit's tardy behavior on this issue, so far, is disgusting. Hopefully it will change soon. (And hopefully I can still get your comment back!)


    Post-Rome Europe is a good analogy for Post-Europe Africa. I am aware of the strong Christianity that thrives there. It will be the battleground.

    And, as Tom Barnett once said, once we see the battles moving to Africa, we can say we are winning.


  7. Dan,

    Let me try again on explaining my first comment.

    There are two key concepts in your post: The definition of Christianity as a “core” phenomenon vs. Islam as a “gap” phenomenon, and martyrdom.

    The martyrdom issue seems central to the friction between Christianity and Islam. There's an old saying something like: “Conversion requires the spilling of blood”. The difference between the two religions is whose blood is being spilled. From the defining act of Christ's sacrifice to the martyrdom of numerous Christians, spilt Christian blood led to conversion [Ferdinand Magellan and the conversion of the Phillipines comes to mind]. By contrast, Islamic conversion involves the spilling of infidel blood. I'd be interested to know if there are any prominent (or obscure) examples of comparable Muslim martyrdom.

    Since I'm pontificating, why not mention Pope Benedict's speech. The key point in the portion of the speech concerning Islam is this: “The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.” This statement only makes sense in the context of a stable (albeit unequal) political, social, and economic system. The fight for Christians in Rome was for equality, and the oppressed knew that reason was on their side, and they would ultimately prevail when oppressors could no longer effectively ignore them. Could Ghandi's strategy of non-violence have worked against a Nazi German empire, or Pol Pot's rule?

    On the other hand, chaotic conditions have historically dictated that group survival require absolute fealty – submission – of the group to the leaders. Take, for example [no, not 7th century Arabia; that's too obvious] Java in the aftermath of the Krakatau disaster. A world literally turned upside down. No reasonable God would wreak such havoc, why should reason factor into anyone's response? Following a charismatic leader who delivered aid made perfect sense, even if the all his teachings did not. The r-Complex calculus of survival is terribly precise.

    Wait – didn't you already have a discussion of internal vs external rule sets? Chaos requires internal rule sets. But internal rule sets not based on reason have fatal flaws. The biggest is rejection by the best and the brightest non-rulers. In a tolerant society, this would lead to a reasoned debate of the merits of both arguments and adoption of the better one. But this notion contradicts the need for submission to the order of the leaders. Catch-22! The malignant meme of Communism foundered on this contradiction, because people realized that they had a better option in market economies and greater personal freedom.

    It turns out that internal rule sets need chaos to survive! Stability leads to reason which leads to a desire for external rule sets to expand and preserve that stability. That's why Islam is optimized for the Gap and Christianity is optimized for the Core, as you suggested.

    And thus the current civilizational friction. Islam has a 300 year record of inability to integrate with the Core. If you're one of the leaders sitting atop the internal rule set, what do you do? In a chaotic environment such as Saudi Arabia, you perpetuate and strengthen the internal rule set by expanding its reach. You fund madrassas around the world to focus education away from reason and onto memorization of the internal rule set. You foment chaotic living conditions to perpetuate the need for the internal rule set (and your rule). Despots throughout history and across belief sets have followed this exact script. Unfortunately for their subjects, they can have either Reason or the effective internal rule set; not both.

    Which brings us back to Benedict and his Regensberg speech. The bulk of his address was aimed not at Islam, but at Western Moral Relativism, which eschews reason for an internal rule set of “white guilt”. Benedict points out that this malignant meme must be stopped, or chaos will wash across Europe, wiping away the birthplaces and former bastions of Reason.

    In the U.S., we have “political correctness”, which is a secular exemplar of internal rule sets. Any reasoned questioning of the tenets of PC are subjected to vitriolic ad hominem attacks rather than reasoned counterargument. PC principles simply cannot be questioned! I offer as Exhibit A – the Duke Lacrosse fiasco. And as Exhibit B – Larry Summers' remark that boys and girls have genetic differences that result in cognitive differences – which almost got him burned at the stake in front of the Women's Studies department! [Note: here is the ultimate in reason vs. internal rule set conflicts. There is no doubt as to the science of Dr. Summers' points (Dan will add the appropriate footnotes)]

    But I digress.

    Christianity needs and promotes the Core. Islam needs and promotes the Gap. As ElamBend points out, Africa is the region of greatest expansion for Christianity, and the region where it most actively competes with Islam (Moral authority in Europe has effectively been ceded to Islam by everyone but the few like Benedict. Disagree? Tell it to Theo Van Gogh's son!). It would be interesting to study the cause and effect of expansion of each religion in Africa. But that's probably the subject of multiple posts here and at Spooky Action [Go Dan!].

    Did that make any sense?



  8. Mike,

    I added some additional thoughts under Jesusism-Paulism, Part V: The People of the Book. It describes another difference between Christianity and Islam, and I've love your thoughts on that! [1]

    I don't think one needs a stable system for Christianity to thrive — think of its present rise in the 3rd World for example – but it does rely on an enemy's “humanity.” Half-measures don't work against it, but I think that Caiaphas and Diocletian “knew better” because they understood what the best chance for ending it was — extermination. (An approach to neuter Christianity, socialize it, was successfully applied by many Orthodox states, traditional Muslim states, and the European secularists.)

    Likewise, I think an Islam can survive in the Core — indeed, for many centuries “the Core” was composed almost entirely of Islamic states.

    But I do think that it's true that Christianity will do best under Hegemonic conditions, while Islam is adapted to grow under Anarchic ones.

    “But internal rule sets not based on reason have fatal flaws. “

    Hmmm… I may disagree with this a lot. Massive modularity [3] and the inheritance of political beliefs [4], for instance, implies that almost no internal rule sets are based on “reason” as such…. Unless I misunderstand what you mean by reason.

    “It turns out that internal rule sets need chaos to survive! Stability leads to reason which leads to a desire for external rule sets to expand and preserve that stability.”

    Reminds me of Max Weber. Bureaucratization is actually rationalization, and the more that can be understood and predicted, the more rationality (and bureaucracy) makes sense. So yes, I think so.

    “And thus the current civilizational friction. Islam has a 300 year record of inability to integrate with the Core. “

    I wonder if a substantial Islamic society has ever previously been well integrated into a Core not run on Islamic lines. I doubt it, but I don't have the historic background to know.

    “In the U.S., we have “political correctness”, which is a secular exemplar of internal rule sets. Any reasoned questioning of the tenets of PC are subjected to vitriolic ad hominem attacks rather than reasoned counterargument.”

    Wouldn't PC be an example of a horizontal-external ruleset? [5] Larry Summers was taken down because of pressure external to himself [6], for instance.

    Excellent, excellent comment, Mike. Very fun to read!!


  9. The Adam & Eve story is taken from a Chaldean myth. It never really happened. Christians say we need a savior, since those people in the garden were disobedient. Since the Adam & Eve story never really happened, we DO NOT need a savior. We are our own savior. By trying to live a righteous life, we progress thru many lifetimes to a perfected state.


  10. ReligionGuru,

    Not sure what you wish to prove. You argue against the historical validity of a ancient semitic tale by arguing… that it is striking similar to a tale by another semitic people? That would seem to be as much of an argue in favor of historical veracity than against it.

    Regardless, I have only heard the argument that Salvation depends on the literal truth of Genesis twice, and both times by people who doubted the literal truth of Genesis. So it's a straw man argument.

    Thanks for your comment.

  11. Our whole lives we are concerned about religions,faiths and beleifs. But if the Bible being truthful, then what was Adam and Eve's religion? What doctrines of faith did they follow. See so many times we use our religions as a platform to judge infidels. We don't have to use bombs or political statements. We use words. Our tongues of fear,hate,and misconception have led us all down paths of misunderstanding.

  12. wow, are you honestly this ignorant about islam? if this is all you know about it (which btw is far from the truth and is made up to make people against islam), then istead of giving other people your uneducated opinions how about you go learn a few things about islam before you start spreading the wrong messsage.

  13. The Hamas war has led to an increase in these sorts of drive-by Islamist comments.

    The best one so far was actually astroturf for an entertainment site of ill-repute… It was funny on reflection 🙂

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