Think Again: Dangerous godlessness
The tripartite division of the recent CNN series God’s Warriors into Jewish, Christian and Islamic segments conveyed its underlying message: Religions produce murderous fanatics. That particular trope features in all the recent spate of books proclaiming, “I am an atheist, and if you had any brains, you would be too.”
That thesis, however, is badly flawed. First, religious fanatics prove no more about the inherent nature of religious belief than Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot prove about non-belief.
And the implicit equation of Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious fanatics is absurd. In the first two categories, CNN’s Christine Amanpour dredged up Dr. Baruch Goldstein and a handful of (largely unsuccessful) Jewish terrorists from the 1980s and a few Christian abortion clinic bombers. (The former allowed Amanpour to segue into a BBC-style frontal attack on Israel and the “Israel lobby,” already admirably dissected by Jonathan Tobin and Andrea Levin in these pages.)
Radical Islamists, by way of comparison, have killed thousands around the globe in recent years – in New York, Madrid, London, Bali, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Jordan, Afghanistan and Iraq. An Iranian regime with the declared mission of spreading the worldwide reign of Islam is on the verge of possessing nuclear weapons, and an already nuclear Pakistan could fall under Islamist rule.
Political Islam, according to Mary Habeck of Johns Hopkins University, recognizes no permanent political boundaries with unbelievers, for doing so “would end the expansion of Islam and stop offensive jihad, both of which are transgressions against [divine] law that commands jihad until the entire earth is under the rule of Islamic law.”
That mindset, in both its Sunni and Shi’ite variants, claims millions of adherents around the world, including tens of thousands who have declared their willingness to kill and be killed furthering the cause. By contrast, Judaism has never recognized a divine mandate for territorial expansion, and it has been centuries since Christians spoke with a straight face of Christendom.
AMANPOUR’S EFFORT to undermine religious faith in general is not only wrong-headed; it is dangerous. Radical Islam may be the greatest threat to world peace today. But the likeliest antidote is a resurgence of Jewish and Christian religious belief.
Without entering into fruitless debates about whether religious or non-religious people are more moral – fruitless since we lack even the common moral language the Decalogue once provided – there is one point even Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great), and Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation) should concede: Religious people are better at defending themselves from threats to their survival.
FOR EVIDENCE, we need look no further than the Europeans’ helplessness in the face of the continent’s growing Islamization. Secular Europeans are unwilling to undertake any sacrifice – even if it’s only producing more children – to save their civilization.
A lack of religious imagination prevents pleasure-loving children of the Enlightenment from grasping the threat of militant Islam. EU bureaucrats consistently treat Islamophobia as a greater danger than radical Islam. They cannot imagine that Islamic terrorists engage in terrorism because that’s what they do best, and not to advance rational, obtainable goals. Nor do they comprehend that Osama bin Laden is deadly serious when he proclaims a war of civilizations, and that there can be no splitting the difference between his goal of imposing worldwide Shari’a and the West’s desire to live in peace and comfort.
When the danger finally slaps them in the face, Europeans respond by assuming a posture of abject deference to Islam, in the hope they will be treated mercifully. A Dutch priest urges using Allah in place of God, the British prime minister forbids his ministers to mention the religion of native-born Islamic terrorists, British schools cancel classes on the Holocaust in the face of Muslim protests, BBC broadcasters invariably add “peace be upon him” to Muhammad’s name and one European country after another falls over itself to apologize for printing cartoons Muslims deem offensive.
MORE THAN four years after Iran’s nuclear ambitions became clear, and after being repeatedly led around by the nose, European nations are still unable to agree on more than symbolic sanctions. Even the threat of nuclear-armed mullahs sitting athwart the Straits of Hormuz (through which one-fifth of the world’s oil passes) cannot spur them to action.
Young Europeans have chosen flight over fighting. Emigration from prosperous Germany and Holland exceeds immigration. A young Dutch writer, responding to the advice of German author Henryk Broder to flee to Australia, spoke for many when he wrote: “I am not a warrior, but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”
His only reaction to the loss of his country: “a feeling of sadness.”
That passivity in the face of threat is directly linked to Europe’s loss of religious belief. Those who view themselves as nothing more than sophisticated, pleasure-seeking animals, whose life has no purpose outside itself and ends with death, consider nothing worth dying for and war to be an invariably irrational option.
Not by accident is the United States, by far the most religious Western country, the only one that shows a determination not to submit to external enemies. American defense spending dwarfs that of all Europe combined. And since 1945, Europe has left the burden of its defense to the U.S. A poll by the German Marshall Fund found that 80 percent of Americans agree with the proposition “[under some conditions] war is necessary to obtain justice.” Less than one-third of Frenchmen, Germans, Italians and Spaniards responded in kind.
“A man who has nothing he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature, who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself,” writes John Stuart Mill.
Godless Europe has become that man.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on September 7, 2007