Review: Christianity, Islam and Atheism
Professor William Kilpatrick’s book is, in many ways, a difficult book to read. Not because the language or concepts are difficult — they’re not — but because it’s difficult to tell when (or if) Kilpatrick becomes polemical.
And that is part of the reason he wrote the book in the first place: In the West, it’s become nearly impossible to say anything critical of Islam.
We find it shocking, for instance, to hear anyone say that Islam is false. Should it be? We hear every day the Christians are weak and stupid, that Christianity is a lie, that Christianity has oppressed and murdered millions, and that the world would be better off without it. Why is it that to say the same about Islam is beyond the pale?
Kilpatrick explores that question in great detail, and goes on to ask others. Was Mohammed a prophet? Was he even an admirable person? Is the Koran inspired by God? Is it even an admirable book? Does Islam have a good affect on the societies that adopt it, and on the people who believe it? What are its aims, and are they compatible with Christianity, democracy, and human freedom? If you can’t bear to ask these questions, the book suggests, you are not seeing Islam clearly because you are not even looking at it. Instead, you are looking away from it in an attempt to keep the dream of multiculturalism alive: that there are no real differences between people or cultures, and that they are all equally good.
Kilpatrick has looked at Islam and drawn his own conclusions. The are that Islam is not benign for anyone, and that the polite refusal to see any differences between it and Christianity are inherent to both multiculturalism, which wants peace by ignoring differences, and an alliance between leftists and atheists, who hate the West in general and Christianity in general. This is a dangerous blindness, he says, because it leaves people with no way to fight back. A small but vigorous atheism and a growing crisis of faith in Christianity are working together to make that blindness even more dangerous. Vigorous belief always conquers wavering belief or no belief at all. If we don’t want the world to be Muslim — and Kilpatrick says we shouldn’t — then we’d better start doing something about it.
Again, uncomfortable stuff. Kilpatrick makes his case in detailed chapters, and includes extensive notes. He spends some time examining how many Christians (including the current and late pope) have been either mistaken about the goals of Islam or have simply assumed that, as people of faith, Islam is a natural ally against secularism. According to Kilpatrick, that’s not so. Islam is as likely to ally itself with secularists, whom it can convert later, than it is with Christians, because to Islam any alliances are fine as long as they further its goals: the subjection of the world to the God revealed by Mohammed.
So what if it’s true? What the ancient rivalry between Christianity and Islam really is implacable? The book ends with an outline of what Christians should do, and it’s good advice even if you are not convinced that Islam is any sort of threat. The main thing, he says, is speak out while you still can. In Europe and Canada, it’s increasingly difficult to say anything negative about Islam, and Kilpatrick lays out a great number of instances where it is becoming so here. If multiculturalism is true, and there is nothing threatening about Islam, then Muslims must be willing to examine their faith the way Christians do, and willing to hear criticisms of it.
Christians should say, for instance, that Mohammed was not a prophet — that he did not receive revelations from God, that the God he describes (wholly unlike Creation, and wholly separate from man) is not the God Christ revealed, that the Jesus he describes is not Jesus, that it is not the obligation of every person on earth to submit to Islam. In a polite and open society, Muslim belief should not be attacked. But then, neither should Christian belief, and we’re expected to take plenty of attacks. So how can it hurt to be polite but clear: Islam is not true.
And if we’re too afraid to say that, then maybe things are worse than we think.
Photo courtesy Stock.exchng.
William Kilpatrick, Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the American West, Ignatius Press.
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