Mike Duran recently posted about two hostages who were forced to convert to Islam, and turns it into a broadside against Islam in general:
Even a complicit media cannot disguise the awful truth about Islam. As much as we’d like to embrace the “all-religions-are-equal” mantra, there’s only one religion these days effectively swaying public opinion through shrapnel, suicide bombers and M-16′s.
This is yet another chapter in the long-running debate about whether Islam as aÂ whole is a good religion or a bad one. I’ve seen arguments both pro and con, and don’t really have an opinion about it. But one thing I do have an opinion about is that to Christians, it shouldn’t actually matter.
FirstÂ of all, the only really relevant question about any religion is whether or not it’s true. If forced conversions actually please God, complaining about them isn’t going to help. I realize that Mike and others are objecting against a certain pluralist theory of religion, but it actually seems to be ceding too much ground to the pluralists to judge religions not by their truth, but by whether you’d want one as your next-door neighbor or not. “Good” believers keep to themselves, abide by the laws and don’t bother anyone; “bad” religions make themselves pains in the butt.
By those standards Christianity may come off better than Islam, but it would certainly come off worse than some other religions, such as Jainism. I say this not only because of the various wrongs that Christians have committed, but also because even nonviolent Christians reserve the right to be pains in the butt on matters of faith (e.g., Martin Luther King, or just your average missionary). Once you start judging religions by some external yardstick like good citizenship, you’ve already bailed on your own truth claims.
Moreover, if Islam at its core is not true, there’s no point in identifying one strain of it as the “true” Islam and more benevolent factions as unrepresentative. If it’s a human creation to begin with, why should one community’s subcreation of it have more validity than others?
Secondly, I don’t see how establishing Islam as a nasty religion would actually change our policy towards it. Churches are supposed to do mission in war or peace, to friends and enemies, not based on whom we’re most afraid of. As for state policy, it violates our own First Amendment for the government to try to deconvert people from their religions. And in fact, governments are never scarier than when they’re trying to annihilate an idea. Recently Christopher Hitchens reviewed a book arguing that the Allies’ bombing of civilians in World War II was morally unjustified. Hitchens basically concedes the arguments, but still isn’t satisfied:
… atheist though I am, I have to invoke something like the biblical. It was important not just that the Hitler system be defeated, but that it be totally and unsentimentally destroyed. The Nazis had claimed to be invincible and invulnerable: Very well, then, they must be visited by utter humiliation. No more nonsense and delusion, as with the German Right after 1918 and its myth of a stab in the back. Here comes a verdict with which you cannot argue.
It’s a nasty business, killing people’s gods. It’s the stuff that Yahweh visited on Egypt to humble their god-king in Exodus. But for human purposes, no reasonable just-war theory allows for what it would take to commit deicide, let aloneÂ of a god followed by 600 million people. Even popes have denounced the Crusades by now. (A recent article suggested that Christians might have picked up the idea of holy war from Islam, which would add an almost unbearable degree of irony to the thing.)
I expect the real complaint here is mostly about rhetoric. The critics don’t like seeing Islam called a “religion of peace,” they feel that it’s getting a pass because Muslims are perceived as an oppressed people; they want its sins advertised to the world. But I would point out that from a Christian point of view Muslims are an oppressed people, and were so even at the height of the medieval empires. Like everyone else, they’re oppressed by Satan. And so, is all this denunciation from the editorial pages of far-off climes, all this raising of suspicion of the group as a whole,Â really helping to liberate them? Is it increasing their trust in Christian authority? Somehow, I don’t think so.