Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for The Soul of The West is a new book from Ignatius Press by William Kilpatrick. This is not a light read, but I found it to be an very informative read.
There are a range of ideas about engaging Islam and whether Islamist terrorists are misusing their religion or are more faithful adherents of it. Within Catholic circles to some extent these differing views are represented by Robert Spenser and Peter Kreeft. In fact these two men engaged in a debate on the subject that I thought was a great debate in both the issues and how both men respected the other.
I tend to fall in the Robert Spenser end of the spectrum and so did this book. There is certainly a Mark Steyn like approach in this book and Mark Steyn is quoted rather extensively in it. The Mark Steyn view is displayed regarding demographics and how emigration of Muslims into Europe is affecting these countries. Especially as there has been less integration into these cultures as is usual. But this goes beyond the normal political approach and into subjects relating to the Church and the Evangelization of Muslims.
The book is misnamed to some extent where atheism is really a reference to secularism and a reaction to Islam that is represented by some agnostics, atheists, and believers of a more liberal stripe. The second section of the book on “Islam’s Enablers” is a reference to this and how bad behavior by some Muslims are protected and covered up. The book contains multiple examples of how tolerant societies have allowed this behavior while evicting or punishing to some extent those who highlight and fight agains this. In many ways it is quite laudable when people want to prevent prejudice of one group because of the actions of a segment of that group. The problem comes in when serious problems are smoothed over and no engagement comes to label and resist these problems. Multiculturalism is really not practiced, what we actually have is favored-culturalism and the diminishment of other cultures. For example the book demonstrates how textbooks have come to favor Islam while demeaning Christianity.
I found the third section to be the most interesting “The Comparison.” We often hear of the approach towards Muslims as being one of the Abrahamic religions and that there are commonalities we can build upon. William Kilpatrick demonstrates quite well that these common foundations are either non-existent or quiet weak. For example Jesus in the Koran is purely of sock puppet for Mohammed to deny that Jesus was the son of God. The Koranic Jesus plays a very minor role. A Jesus who performed no miracles and was not crucified – the very Jesus you would expect if you wanted to supplant him. The Koranic Abraham is also much difference and the different view is more likely to cause contention than to unite. This pretty much is true of most of the comparisons that are suppose to provide a common foundation. Although this is really to be expected in comparisons of Abrahamic religions in that Islam is a heresy cobbled up from Christianity and other sources with no historical foundation to the claims that are made. The standards of historical reliability somehow never seem to get applied to the Koran and we will not be seeing “The Real Mohammed” on the History Channel any time soon. Still it is important to remember that however fabricated Islam is that there is always commonality with Muslims themselves.
The last section “The Cold War with Islam” expresses an idea I had not really considered before with a comparison to the cold war with Communism. While not a perfect parallel there is much to think about here. Things don’t have to end up in a shooting war to be addressed. He goes over several approaches and critiques ideas such as the moderate-Mulsim strategy. A chapter in this section deals with what Christians should do. Obviously this requires a multifaceted approach with of course Evangelization being the priority. Too often we walk on eggshells in relating to Islam. One of the facinating things I learned about was a Coptic priest Fr. Zakaria Botros. I don’t think I had ever heard of him, but he is well versed on Islamic teachings and has a television show. His show challenging Islam has resulted in al-Qaeda putting a $60 million bounty on his head. He is suppose to be rather effective resulting in conversions. Many Muslims are not use to being engaged at this level, but considering the various punishment for apostasy this is a very difficult area. Another book by Ignatius Press The Price To Pay: A Muslim Risks All to Follow Christ tells the story of a Muslim convert who was shot and left for dead by his brothers because of his conversion. There is certainly not just one approach and the Catholic both/and applies. There is and should be common cause with Muslims where possible and the message of the Gospel should not be left out.
Over all I found this well-worth reading and I learned a lot while also giving me much to think about.