Here we go again. The last time we found ourselves in this situation, four major figures (and a host of lesser ones) leveraged a crisis into a movement that threw religious belief of every stripe under the proverbial bus. “New Atheism’s” Hitchens, Dawkins and co., famously took it upon themselves to discredit and demonize religious belief of every kind. (It’s only coincidence, surely, that such polemics were very, very lucrative.) With Boston, and now Canada’s al-Qaeda arrests, should we expect more of the same?
On the other hand, much to his credit, Bill Maher has disagreed. It didn’t gain him any applause from the Left, but he publicly denounced as “Liberal bullsh-t” the claim that “all religions are equally bad”.
So, let’s do three things. First, a contrast between Islam, and Evangelical Christianity, testing whether they are the same. Second, compare radical Islam with another belief system. And Third, propose a better way of looking at this issue.
For all the accusations that would liken Christian belief to Radical Islam (or even ordinary Islam), their points of difference are greater than their points of similarity. Superficially, they are both Middle Eastern Monotheistic religions; but their similarities quickly evaporate. Even the monotheism of Christians would be disputed by Islam, who would denounce them as “tri-theists”.
Islam is works-based, pleasing the deity if good deeds outweigh bad. Their god is transcendent, but distant and impersonal; their god’s nature cannot be known or described; his Decree is considered the highest measure of morality — an expression of the will (critics might say ‘whim’) of their god; people are creations, but never “children”; and it is ultimately a fatalistic religion where anything that happens is “the will of Allah”. Islam holds no distinction between religious practice and political process, as the latter depends upon the former. It’s chief figure, Mohammad, is the Prophet of the Sword, who personally led troops into battle.
Christianity is a faith-based system where all people stand equally guilty, but whoever puts their trust in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice will receive forgiveness and eternal life. The Christian deity is transcendent AND personal, people are not merely “creation”, but dear children made in God’s image. Christian views on God’s sovereignty will differ, but in every case they agree that God is not the author of sin, (nor does he command it), but when we see sin, it is evidence of fallen humanity that has freely chosen to act wickedly. Christian morality does not merely flow from the whims or decrees of a god, but is anchored in God’s own unchangeable holy nature. Religious practice for Christians is flexible, and can flourish in a range of cultures or political systems. It’s chief figure, Jesus Christ, also known as “Prince of Peace”, willingly laid down his life for his followers.
Foregoing civility and logic for the moment, let us speak in the manner that the aforementioned polemicists might were they attacking a different target:
Christianity and Radical Islam have practically nothing in common, especially those central truth claims about the nature of God, creation, humanity, sin, redemption, heaven, and hell. But another belief system is far more compatible with Radical Islam. Before I name it, let’s compare some similarities.