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Islamic militants are like Medieval Christians
By Wayne Dunn
"The Muslim loves death and martyrdom, just as you love life. There is a great difference between he who loves the Hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death [and seeks] Martyrdom."
Spoken by an Islamic clergyman in Jerusalem months ago, no one now doubts the sincerity of those who subscribe to such an ideology. For only the contemptuous of life would crash planes full of passengers into buildings full of people. Only haters of "worldliness" would target a symbol and hub of material prosperity -- the World Trade Center -- in one of the most secular nations on earth. Only lovers of the "Hereafter" would jet there in a blaze of suicidal infamy and have no compunction about dragging others with them.
But foreign though such acts were to America, there's something eerily familiar underlying the Islamic priest's invitation to commit them. Minus praising martyrdom, his sentiment sounds about like what's expressed in most Christian sermons ever preached: rebuke the earth; yearn for life's end; sacrifice self; be anti-material; follow faith.
In fact, when striped of details, Christianity and Islam are identical in essentials. But why then do Islamic extremists traffic in barbarism while their philosophic cousins seem relatively docile?
History provides the answer.
There was a time when Christians took faith as seriously as Middle-Eastern Muslims currently do: the Medieval Era. Man's mind is impotent, said early Christian Fathers, and his proper course is to renounce "this world" for an alternate, supernatural world accessible only by death.
Christians complied. For over a thousand years they adhered to a faith so stringent as to make Billy Graham look like the Antichrist.
Then in the 13th century, Church scholar Thomas Aquinas -- strongly influenced by an ancient Greek philosopher, the father of logic, Aristotle -- departed from the accepted idea that Christian dogma is a province exclusively of faith. He undertook to demonstrate that the unaided intellect could logically validate Church teachings. That created, however, an unintended consequence: if Christian tenets rest on purportedly logical arguments, men questioned, mustn't those arguments continually stand up to the scrutiny of reason, which all humans possess? Then the next progression: if man's reasoning mind is qualified to untangle "spiritual" matters, why not explore earthly ones as well?
The 200 or so years that those ideas percolated throughout Europe culminated in the Renaissance, the rebirth of reason. Having freed his mind from the Church's iron grip, man now had means to rescue his body. The Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, individual rights, the Industrial Revolution, America, capitalism and undreamed of prosperity came in due course. Science, medicine and rocket launches eventually replaced crusades, inquisitions and witch burnings.
Medieval Christians lived in hovels, mortified the flesh, rebuked wealth, obeyed authority and died in their twenties. Modern-day Western "Christians" reside in brick houses, soak in hot tubs, buy stocks, govern themselves and live to be 80. The religion to which the moderns still pay lip service is a thin, watered-down version their distant predecessors would denounce as wicked.
The Islamic Faith, by contrast, never had an Aquinas and thus never experienced a renaissance; it was never neutered. Today's Middle-Eastern Muslims are as superstitious, pro-death, anti-material and faith-filled as European Christians were a millennium ago. Whether in 21st-century Iraq or 11th-century England, focusing on the "next world" means abandoning this one, and ignorance, poverty, famine and disease are predictable and inevitable results.
Yet in the aftermath of the Islamic terrorist assaults, Americans are praying, singing hymns, quoting scripture and the like. But despite all that religious guff, few if any in the US, thankfully, would tolerate President Bush implementing the ideals of his "favorite philosopher," Jesus. Bless them that curse you, love your enemies, surrender your life, turn the other cheek, if he takes your cloak give your coat also, endlessly forgive, be meek and humble, don't judge -- What Would Jesus Do? -- is a recipe for disaster.
Americans must realize that the Muslim terrorists, and those who openly or secretly cheer them, hate the US not for its association with a "wrong" religion, but for its embrace of secularism. Reason, freedom, self-interest, individualism, happiness, science -- mastery of material production and production of material wealth are the West's core values, disparaged by both Bible and Koran.
Those we are at war with are consistent advocates of faith and self-sacrifice. We cannot defeat them by "getting back to God" -- that is, by clamoring to become earnest practitioners of a slightly different version of the same evil we're fighting. Instead we must selfishly, unequivocally and proudly stand for the worldly values that ended the "dark and doleful night of Christian rule" and ushered in the prosperous way of life the West now enjoys.
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