Saturday 27 October 2018

The dangerous religion is not Islam but the human rights religion

I just came across a very polemical review by Andrew E. Harrod of a what sounds like a polemical book called Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, by an American called Raymond Ibrahim.

He is the son of Egyptian Coptic immigrants. Middle Eastern Christians often understand Islam better than anyone else, because they are native Arabic speakers who can be more objective than Muslims. Mr. Ibrahim was previously an Arabic specialist in the Library of Congress and is now a fellow at an American conservative think tank called the Middle East Forum run by Daniel Pipes. So he is probably at the Gatestone end of the spectrum. He is apparently a fairly serious scholar, but does not have appeared to have studied history at university.

Here is a quotation from the book.

The appeal of Muhammad's message lay in its compatibility with the tribal mores of his society. For seventh-century Arabs – and later tribal peoples, chiefly Turks and Tatars, who also found natural appeal in Islam – the tribe was what humanity is to modern people: to be part of it was to be treated humanely; to be outside of it was to be treated inhumanely.
That sounds a bit like what the civilised world was to Greeks and Romans, which the Romans extended to cover all Europe up to the border with the German barbarians - for those who like St Paul could say 
Civis Romanus sum.
Except that the citizens of Athens and Rome knew tribes were barbarians.

It was Christianity that transcended the idea of tribes, much though there is to be said in favour of them in principle and even though Jesus was interested only in preaching to the Jews.

Mr. Ibrahim is not keen on tribes. From Mr Harrod's review:

Islam "deified tribalism, causing it to outlive its setting and spill into the modern era." Islamic doctrines like al-wala' wa al-bara' ("loyalty and enmity") created an umma faith community or "'Super Tribe' that transcends racial, national, and linguistic barriers." Not surprisingly, the Arabic umma "is etymologically related to 'mother' (umm) – to one's closest kin."

It sounds like Islam transcends tribes too, then.

That review reads like a polemic aimed at a certain type of American conservative, which is what it is. 

Another review by Jerry Lenaburg in the New York Journal of Books has no political axe to grind and said this.

As much as many modern historians try to depict these wars in the context of realpolitik or other secular concerns, Ibrahim makes a convincing case that religion was the most significant factor in the strategy and politics of both Christian and Muslim rulers of this era. This fact will be difficult for most secularized readers to understand, but the unifying factor of faith, both in the Islamic Middle East and Christian Europe, played a central role in the average person’s life and the call to defend the faith against a heretic or infidel was compelling.
This is interesting and made things clear to me. 

Religion is still the central factor in politics, but not conventional religion.

I studied history at a time when history teaching was much influenced by Marxism and materialistic explanations were in vogue. Nowadays historians understand better than they did then the huge importance of religion as a driver of history. For example, the English Civil War was about religion, not class struggle. So to a large extent was much of 18th century British history. The American revolution was in part caused by fears that the King would appoint a bishop for America.

Islam has become an increasingly important force in history with bloody consequences, but much more significant is the influence of a secular religion which gives human rights, non-discrimination, multi-culturalism and welfare the place that in Christianity is reserved for the sacred. Even many Christians see human rights and welfare as sacred. This religion is the explanation for the history of the last 28 years since the Cold War ended.

I am not meaning here to criticise human rights so-called, though as far as I am concerned real human rights mean freedom: freedom of speech, of religion, of contract, of association, fair trials, the right to do things without trouble from the police. Low taxes can be included too(Most 'human rights' are so-called positive rights that require others to do things for you or be in trouble with the police -  positive liberties are sometimes simply surreal, like the 'right to clean water'.) But this is not my subject.

I am instead criticising a secular, egalitarian, post-national ideology which seems to have started from a very admirable repulsion from the crimes of the Nazis and to have become a sort of cheerless, godless Calvinism. 

It is an offence against the religion to see increasing ethnic diversity as a potential danger, rather than a blessing, to consider that there are only two sexes, to think that those two sexes are immeasurably different, to want countries that are essentially ethnic states (to which large immigrant communities have been added since 1950) to remain predominately ethnic states, to want the traditionally Christian or post-Christian world to remain predominately Christian or post-Christian. 

It is this religion that makes it very hard for Western states to close their doors to the huge pressure from people from the poor world to enter. This question is existential. The rich world already has been transformed and now has problems once confined to the poor world, but this process is only beginning.

Man, as Disraeli said, is a creature born to believe. Nowadays Western man increasingly believes in what is a dangerous heresy. I define heresy as a truth taken out of proportion and thereby twisted.

Carlyle thought Islam was Christianity misunderstood. Whether that is true or not, this is what the human rights religion is.


  1. Very well expressed, and I agree. I don't know who it was who said Communism is Christianity secularised, but we can see the same phenomenon at work in the progressive-leftist ideology which rules in the West. The universalism, the original guilt, the seeking for redemption through sacrifice, but this time through the sacrifice of our ancestral societies rather than oneself or Christ. Fascinating and terrifying in equal measure.

    1. Christianity is liberalism. Christianity and the Enlightenment are not opposed but come from one and the same impulse, they are both hubristic universalist crap.

      Its starts off with cranks and reprobates getting together breaking bread and talking about a Jesus (who in all probability never existed but is was a composite figure). Out of the dozens of Jesus sects one wins the struggle for dominance and declares that everyone is spiritually equal in the eyes of God. What’s the proof of that? Well none. It’s just a crank idea that was dreamt up by someone so as to make their sect appeal to more people: non-Jews, slaves, the poor and the diseased. It was superficially attractive just like political socailism. Its attractive to the losers.

      Church said white men are spiritually equal to Africans. Before the enlightenment. So why is it so good to be a spiritual egalitarian and not a political egalitarian? You see everything went with the logic. Either egalitarianism is right or it is wrong. The right should be saying its wrong. But it’s not because so many are handicapped by Christianity. All these Muslim and African immigrants flocking into Europe are “made in God’s image” so why should we oppose them coming here? Surely we can only be enriched by an aspect of God.

  2. Islam has no place in Europe, imo. Why our ancestors strugglled to keep turks and arabs out of Europe and now politicians open doors to the muslim hordes?

  3. You say "even though Jesus was interested only in preaching to the Jews". I suggest that you look at Mark 7:24 - 30, and John 12: 20-36 and attempt an exegesis of them on that idea.
    You also make a comment about cheerless, Godless Calvinism - what exactly do you mean?
    I don't think that you really understand what Christianity is about - not in its relational form any way. - in other words from inside the faith
    I'm not sure that I would agree that what you call the English Civil War, and I would call the War of the Three kingdoms was religious. Even the Bishops War was a class war as it was over the Act of Revocation of 1633 though it took 5 years (and the stupidity of Charles to whip up enthusiasm for a religious input).
    From a situation of faith, Christianity as affirming Civil rights is quite simple, Christ died for the World (or the elect of the World) therefore people are valued by God and have to be valued by the rest of humanity. As far as care of the poor - what you call welfare is concerned There is so much in the Hebrew Bible about justice and the care of the poor that that is clearly important in any faith which has its roots in Judaism, while for example James 2:14ff givers you very strong demands of caring for people.
    This is stuff which I know a little bit about. Now given you have this much wrong, it is probable that the rest of your article is equally misguided.

    1. You apologised on Facebook for having misunderstood something I wrote and decided I was a n atheist. it seems you still do. if I can make sense of this comment. Your comment got so much wrong, that I wonder if there is any point answering you. Anonymous above gets what I mean about Calvinism:

      "The universalism, the original guilt, the seeking for redemption through sacrifice, but this time through the sacrifice of our ancestral societies rather than oneself or Christ. Fascinating and terrifying in equal measure."

      Americans are Calvinists even when they are atheists and see themselves as having a mortal duty to save the world from all sorts of secular sins.

      Christians should indeed value and care about the poor. That is not necessarily the same as public spending on welfare. Do I need to tell you this?

      As for the Civil War, I have not studied the period but have just read Robert Tombs's view on it - it does not matter to my argument whether he overstates his case.

    2. As for what I mean by Calvinism this old blog post from 2015 may give you an idea:

      'To my American friends celebrating Thanksgiving I wish them a happy occasion and remind them of a joke of Garrison Keillor, whom I love.
      "My ancestors were puritans from England. They arrived here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time."

      'I am not sure what Thanksgiving is about but it is about puritans landing in America. G.K. Chesterton said,

      "The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England."

      'Puritanism runs through American culture like Southend through a stick of Southend rock.

      'The puritans, even more than the Pharisees, get a rather unfair press. I, for one, shall be sorry when the USA loses its Protestant religiosity which is what makes the country what it is. But even if Americans cease to be religious they will still be puritans, albeit, as they are now, debauched puritans.

      'Political correctness is all about puritanism. One of the most attractive things about Orthodox countries, like Romania, is that they do not have puritans. It is Protestant countries like England and America that are bedevilled with them, like wasps in summer.

      'On the other hand puritans are much better at book-keeping and probity in general than other faiths. It is no coincidence that Orthodox countries score above Catholic and Protestant ones in every index of corruption.

      'Calvinism and puritanism flourish even after belief in God dies. When the left likes homosexuality and sexual freedom it does so for puritan reasons, not cavalier ones.

      'Mr. Obama today likened the Syrian refugees whom he wants his country to accept to the pilgrim fathers. He has a point. Muslims are puritans as well, of course, Calvinists plus polygamy, so maybe Muslim immigrants in America will fit in. I am sure that, unlike the original puritans, the Muslims will not displace the natives. They may, however, cause quite a few changes.'

    3. Calvinism, though, is not intellectually credible and has not withstood liberalism, as I learnt from this.

      the church’s pastor is a former French Catholic. While growing up in France, he turned his back on Catholicism. He left for India in search of truth. Eventually, he returned to France as a fundamentalist Protestant, deciding to become a minister of that creed. At the end of his ministerial training, however, he left the seminary and joined instead the main French Protestant church, which is a more theologically liberal denomination than that from which he had come. His current beliefs are fully consistent with extreme liberal Protestantism: The Bible is not to be believed literally; theology mutates; doctrine and dogma change over time; and so believers welcome today’s changing social norms and new morality without any sense of rupture or difficulty. All of this is familiar, but the pastor goes further still. He is not sure about the divinity of Christ; he is not sure a church is even needed; but he is sure that Christianity was founded by St. Paul. Heaven and Hell are mere myths with which to frighten children and so on. In the end, truth is not confined to any one religion, and certainly not to Christianity. In fact, one hundred years from now, he predicts we shall no longer be discussing God in language familiar to our ancestors, in terms of Scriptures or Creeds. In that new dawn, we shall instead be exploring the spiritual through the terminology of quantum physics and the like.

      By now, I sensed my questions were redundant. It was clear what these people thought of the Reformation: it was merely a 16th century event that freed them from Rome. Calvin meant nothing to them. He was consigned to history, and was in no way comparable to the devotion felt by many today to Calvin’s Catholic contemporaries, such as St. Thomas More.

      Before me, I saw faces fixed on the future, eagerly anticipating the next ‘development’, the next big idea, and the next ‘great leap forward.’ This phenomenon is today called ‘progress.’ In that room in the French church where such things were discussed, I recognized an old and familiar voice telling anyone who would listen: ‘don’t you know the past is just that, past, and, now, of no consequence? Time to move on, get with the times, go with the flow.’

      What these people staring back at me couldn’t see was that this ‘freedom’ they claimed to have gained was one fraught with danger. Without the safety of the Barque of Peter, they had been cut adrift upon deep waters, tossed about on the waves of this world and in the currents that, through it, run hither and thither. Following this uncoupling, they have had little choice but to go with the flow or sink below crashing waves. The only thing is, it is dead fish that drift downstream.

      As I left, I noticed there was an appeal for the church building fund. Apparently, the Victorian structure that houses this congregation is crumbling to dust, and at an alarming rate.

      While being shown to the door, I paused to pose one last question:

      ‘If Calvin came to your church today, what do you think would be his reaction?’

      ‘He would be disappointed.’

      And, with that, the door closed behind me.

    4. I wasn't aware that I had suggested that you are an atheist - an atheist has to believe something, even if it is the non existence of God. What I said was "I don't think that you really understand what Christianity is about - not in its relational form any way. - in other words from inside the faith" I can't see where you got atheism out of that.
      I can't be bothered to do a textual examination of your writings, but I wonder why it is that I have just the slightest suspicion that anonymous is merely your alter-ego.
      I am none the clearer about your understanding of Calvinism. Calvinism is too often used asa general boo word to describe what more properly should be described as Puritanism - the terms are not in fact coterminous. An interesting insight is to be found in "Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish theology: the doctrine of assurance Edinburgh 1985"

    5. I suspect you think liberal Calvinism is Calvinism. I have no patience to discuss this or your so called nationalism which sounds like globalism.

    6. “an atheist has to believe something, even if it is the non existence of God.“

      “Atheism” is a strawman because the rejection of the assertion about a supernatural God invented by christians does not amount to a belief system, (as suggested by the “ism”). Does the rejection of someone's assertion of the existence of Father Christmas amount to a belief system? One can hardly be defined by rejecting one assertion for which there is no evidence, even if the assertion is made by millions of people.
      And that’s all organised religion is really: safety in numbers. If a man down the street announced he was founding a new Christian Church based around the belief that Jesus had ascended to heaven via a beanstalk, most Christians would scoff at it, even though it isnt objectively more improbable than anything else that is written in the Gospels. The only difference is that the Gospel stories have been around for so much longer and have the benefit of millions of other weak minded people believing it which makes it seem less ridiculous.

      “You say "even though Jesus was interested only in preaching to the Jews". I suggest that you look at Mark 7:24 - 30, and John 12: 20-36 and attempt an exegesis of them on that idea.”

      Well, a lot of early Christian sects certainly believed that. The Nazarenes for example only admitted racial Jews. The Ebionites whose Gospel of Matthew was far older than the edited version that made the cut into the “New Testament” (and who preached pure Communism where all property and women were to be held in common) held that the goyim could be admitted provided they were circumcised and were content with the status of being “Second Class” Christians.

      These obviously failed to attract enough gentiles so the Christian superstition only got underway when the doctrine was modified to admit gentiles on equal terms.

      But these earlier sects had just as much claim to be the “true” Christians as any of the other hundreds of sects struggling for dominance at the time.

      What you believe to be “orthodox” Christian position today i.e. “Jesus came for everyone not just Jews” isn’t really orthodox at all. It just so happened that this particular Christian sect acquired the legal and military power enabling them to destroy their competitors, declare them “heretics” and assemble a sloppily edited anthology out of a the hundreds of forged and garbled gospels flying around and call it a “New Testament”

  4. The article uses “human rights religion” to mean what most of us would call multiculturalism, and Tino Sanandaji agrees with your broad thrust that it’s more dangerous to the West than Islam. (I may have given you this link before.)

    I doubt what you say about the idea of a C of E bishop for America being a factor in the revolution. There was such a proposal. Most colonists were nonconformists, and in the 17th and 18th centuries the C of E in the colonies came under the Bishop of London anyway.


  5. There’s nothing wrong with Islam - there is plenty wrong with radical Islam. Kirill