Quite a Tale

Magda raised a good point, as she does with rather disconcerting regularity.

The Roman Catholic Church HAS had a violent history. In fact, I suspect that its history has been even MORE violent than Islam’s history. However, I don’t believe that this actually points to the error of fundamentalism.

I just think that it points to the error of error.

Let me put it this way.

The Catholic Church suffers from some fatal flaws. (Flaws, by the way, shared by Islam). These flaws were built into the organization at its inception.

The First Flaw, was the marriage of the church to the state. Constantine needed a state religion to cement his power, and he found that state religion in Christianity. The problem is that politics is ALWAYS corrupt in some way, and that corruption was VERY corrupting to the church. The Catholic Church became more interested in power than in God.

The Second Flaw, was the initial compromises that Constantine made. Most of his Roman Legions worshipped Mithras, while various others held to the worship of the old Roman gods. As a way of making Christianity palatable to his army, Constantine incorporated elements of the worship of Mithras and of Roman paganism.

Mithras would have been a ‘natural’ religion to compromise with, because it already had a ‘god came to earth in the form of a man’ legend. It would have been easy to mix the two.

As for the Roman Pantheon… well, you just change the names to characters in the bible and voila! If you were used to worshipping Zeus in the temple… well, they were now calling the temple a church… the Zeus was still there, but named differently…

No big deal, right?


These compromises left the Catholic Church vulnerable to those who had a more ‘muscular’ idea of religion. And, when they read in the ‘Old Testament’, they were ready to apply the principle of the destruction of the Amalekites to anyone who looked at them cross-eyed.

You will notice that there were Christian groups that did NOT make the above compromises, (e.g., the Waldensies, Albigensies, etc.), and they were uniformly pacifistic. Furthermore, a detailed look at these groups shows that they held no common history with the Catholic Church – whereas Protestant groups that came out of the Catholic Church still retained some of this ‘muscular’ quality.

Having said all that, the rise of the Renaissance in Northern Italy dramatically changed the face of life in Europe and paved the way for a change in the Catholic Church.

Islam has suffered in the same way that the Catholic Church did. Islam is ALSO a ‘compromise religion’. It ALSO married the church to the state.

However, just as the Catholic Church was able to drift from it’s violent past, (although, I believe that it retains violent tendencies), Islam has not been so lucky for two more reasons.

Just like the Judeo-Christian bible, the Qur’an (aka Koran) is written in chronological order. Unfortunately, the peaceful parts of the Qur’an were written FIRST. Later on, as Muhammad became more frustrated, his Suras (verses) became more violent. 

If you are a devout Muslim, you will tend to look at the later, more violent Suras as REPLACING the earlier, more peaceful Suras.

The Judeo-Christian bible is the opposite. The violence is towards the beginning with peacefulness preached towards the end. And, if you read the New Testament, it is clear that violence in the name of religion is prohibited.

Can you see the difference?

But wait, there’s one more.

Just like Italy, Islamic civilization was also undergoing a Renaissance. In Iberia (Spain/Portugal), the Islamic Moors were developing sophisticated ideas about politics, ethics, religion, art… all the stuff that was happening at the same time in Northern Italy. And, we were seeing elements of this in North Africa.

Unfortunately, we had two devout Catholics, Fred and Izzy (Ferdinand and Isabella) who decided that the Moors should be exterminated and launched a war of genocide throughout Iberia, eventually driving the Moors out – and destroying the Islamic Renaissance.

Furthermore, the Mongols, to the East of the Islamic empire, had been pushing west for a couple hundred years – and driving other tribes and ethnic groups at the Muslims. As you can imagine, there was a LOT of fighting going on. And, when there’s a lot of fighting, you don’t have much time for discussions of ethics, art, and science. You’re too busy trying to survive.

This meant that Islam became militarized at the very moment when it was making tentative steps towards modernity.

Quite a tale, eh?

7 thoughts on “Quite a Tale”

  1. PS. I also loved Rena’s comment. I would LOVE to prove that Muslims can only expect a delightful selection of RAISINS!

    However, I suspect that you won’t get this interpretation to fly with your average fundamentalist.

    Raisins, though…

  2. Well, just because someone is Irish, doens’t mean they are Catholic:)
    Acyually the war in Ireland is still going on as well

    Anyway, I know this is semi off topic, but did any of you hear the clips from Obama’s
    spiritual advisor?

  3. You know, Obama may have a trash-mouthed minister,
    but McCain has the most annoyingly plastic wife.
    Keepin it real?
    I hope to have connected all of this with Israel.

  4. Hey John,

    Are you already afraid of me commenting? ;) Actually you oughtn’t ’cause there’s not much to add to this one! Thanks for the great response to my query.

    There’s just a tiny one: The Q’ran was not written in chronological order but the suras are arranged by lenght. There are even a couple of them of which the context within Mohammads CV is not yet known or still disputed among scholars. [which is another point that opens the Q’ran for interpretation …]

    By the way: I really do enjoy this correspondence a lot and thank you for the challenge of my common knownledge and my ‘grey cells’ :)



  5. Magda?

    Got me again.

    You are right. The Qur’an is NOT organized in chronological order. However, Muslim fundamentalists still understand the chronology of the Qur’an and use that chronology to justify their support of terrorism and delegitimize the Suras (chapters) that preach peace.

    By the way, my second mistake was in calling the Suras verses. They are CHAPTERS. Verses are Ayas.

    Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

    – John

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