Thursday, June 08, 2006

Our Evolving Culture

Can we face the threat of Islam?

A healthy culture is able to respond and adapt in the face of challenges. The rot within any culture is often unseen until a crisis. The Islamic threat exposes our culture’s weakness: we are in denial of the threat (“It’s only a few extremists”,) sit in fear of the future (“Nothing can stop a suicide bomber”,) and blame ourselves for the problem (“Why do they hate us? We broke Iraq, etc.”)

As we’ve pointed out, denial is an overwhelming problem that stems from multi-cultural relativism on the left and an ecumenical respect for all religion on the right. Despite the administration’s claim that “fighting terrorism” is a war, not a criminal matter, our leaders proceed as if they are fighting the Muslim Mafia—not a broad religious ideology that is undergoing a revival. They’ve assumed if we dismantled Al Qaeda and removed the Baathist thugs, all would be well. Well it hasn’t worked out that way. The problem remains; indeed it is growing.

Mainstream political and intellectual writers are unable, on principle, to face the barbarian nature of the enemy’s culture. Instead, they blame America. Both Democrats and Republicans argue over who can engineer a better world in Iraq and win “the hearts and minds” of the Islamic world. It’s we that have to change, not Muslims. We’re the problem, according to this analysis. If they haven’t embraced the liberal democracy that we’ve patiently and generously offered, we must have did something wrong. (Too few troops, too many troops, not enough U.N. troops, too much humiliation, too little force, too soon, too late, etc.)

The complete blindness to the inherent failure of Arab societies is captured in Colin Powell’s quip on Iraq: “we broke it, we own it.” If Saddam’s Iraq was Colin’s idea of a working nation, let’s hope we never have Powell as a President. Iraq, like Arab and Islamic nations everywhere, are dysfunctional, backwards, and impoverished (without the help of the oil windfall.) Let’s face it: it is them, not us.

Our culture is changing.

Polls show an increase in the number of people who believe that Islam underwrites the barbaric behavior of jihadist terrorists despite being told, over and over again, that such thoughts are bigotry. It’s hard to ignore the nature of a religion that motivates its members to kill over a cartoon. It’s painful to see that even with all our help, the Afghanistan government would execute a man for practicing his religion, if that religion is not Islam. It’s sobering to see the broad embrace of the jihadist spirit as “moderate” nations like Egypt praise suicide bombers and “allies” like Qatar broadcast vicious beheadings by devout jihadists.

We’ve been extremely generously in trying to establish liberal democracies in two Islamic nations. We’ve been told that the religion isn’t an obstacle. It is clear to many people now that is most certainly is. It’s become clear that the standard grievances are nothing but rationalizations. As people realize the old clichés don’t explain the continuous worldwide jihadist assault, people are ready for the real explanation. A growing literature (see also this, this, and this) now explains Islam without the politically correct party line.

Our hope lies in our greatness.

If we are to face today’s threat we need to take stock in our distinctive core values. What made America, and other European societies, able to emerge from the religious Dark Ages in the West, establish sustainable liberal societies, and withstand the temptations of secular collectivism? It may seem that we don’t have the capacity to face today’s Islamo-fascist threat as our parent had when facing the totalitarian threats 60 years ago. But that internal strength lies dormant. Our ability to withstand external threats depends on our ability to re-affirm our core principles, re-affirm the pride in our achievement, and hold on to the aspirations to furthering those principles.

The key to our civilization is that we are nations based on individual rights where reason, not force, is the means we deal with each other. This is our founding principles which we’ve held as an aspiration and have realized to a great extent. This involves respect for the sovereignty of each individual, an embrace of self-reliance, and a liberal free-market economy. It’s true that there’s been a significant erosion of these principles but they still have broad appeal.

Islamic culture, on the other hand, is based on faith, submission, and renunciation of this life in favor of the afterlife. Force, not reason, is the dominant means of dealing with differences and bringing others into submission. The individual is disposable, in the cause of Islamic imperialism and global domination. At root, Islam is a warrior religion. Individual differences are intolerable and must be suppressed for the mission: bring the world under Islamic domination.

We should remember that our most precious liberties have had opponents even within Western culture. Individual thought was subordinated to dictates of Church authorities during most of Western history. Starting from the 12th century Renaissance, reason has supplanted dogma in a slow and less than steady process. After the religious wars of the 17th century, religious toleration found several forceful spokesmen. In the 18th century, British liberalism was put into practice on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the 19th century saw the rise of a counter movement against individualism. Its impact was felt in the 20th century with the rise of totalitarian movement in continental Europe.

We, in the Anglo-sphere, have maintained the core principles of individualism and reason in human affairs. And we’ve maintained the spiritual and material capacity to withstand the totalitarian threat. If we are to fight the Islamic threat, we again have to renew that sprit and revive the capacity to fight the enemy. This is where we stand today.

26 Comments:

Blogger Always On Watch said...

This essay was worth the wait. Outstanding explication!

Polls show an increase in the number of people who believe that Islam underwrites the barbaric behavior of jihadist terrorists despite being told, over and over again, that such thoughts are bigotry.

Some individuals who never seemed much interested are starting to ask the hard questions now. I'm not quite sure as to why this timing, but I'm seeing the phenomenon.

6/7/06, 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our ability to withstand external threats depends on our ability to re-affirm our core principles, re-affirm the pride in our achievement, and hold on to the aspirations to furthering those principles."

This is impossible in today's culture. First of all when you say "our core principles" you are being way to generous to conservatives. They do not value reason, individualism and capitalism on principle. They value some mushy mix of religion and freedom. But one (religion) will ultimately kill the other (freedom).

Actually, for all that you make of the differences of Islam and Christianity (and I agree with you about them), I still think that in many ways Christianity is the more dangerous. It will be Christian pascifism that paves the way for the Islamic savages to gut the West.

The only hope for the West long term is if there is a rebirth of reason in the culture and you and I both know that there is only one person that can spark such a rebirth. But if you say that name too loudly or too often your conservative friends might take offense.

D. Eastbrook

6/8/06, 1:25 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

The only hope for the West long term is if there is a rebirth of reason in the culture and you and I both know that there is only one person that can spark such a rebirth. But if you say that name too loudly or too often your conservative friends might take offense.

I thought Ayn Rand was dead and buried?

I'm sure you're just "valuing reason, individualism, and capitalism on principle" as much as conservatives do, but we like to internalize such things. You know, "my reason, my individuality, my capital."

The cure for indifference isn't group readings of Atlas Shrugged.

Ya gotta actually do something.

Initiate some force...

6/8/06, 3:23 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

D. Eastbrook,
But if you say that name too loudly or too often your conservative friends might take offense.

Well, I am a Christian, but I'm not too picky about allies if they recognize the enemies of Western civilization. And I'm not a believer in harping the evangelistic tune, either. Ask me about my beliefs, and I'll tell you. But, basically, I believe that I have enough trouble tending to my own soul to run around trying to tend to the souls of others.

I'm not an objectivist, but I respect your right to be one.

But I partly agree with you on this: It will be Christian pascifism that paves the way for the Islamic savages to gut the West. Multi-culti and pc are also paving the way, and a lot of those subscribers are not Christians.

Christianity, in the larger sense as it's practiced today, has sold itself out to the interfaith philosophy, which basically amounts to "I'm okay, you're okay."

I've said it before, but I'll repeat it here: I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jason, who recognizes the enemy. I admit that many of my Christian friends don't "get that," but not getting it is THEIR problem, not mine.

6/8/06, 7:01 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

You raise a huge topic, Eastbrook. My idea is that we can point out the influence of Hellenic rationalism on Western Civilization. I find that most religious people don’t find that offensive at all but welcome the discussion.

One of the problems is that the bogus claim to rationalism by the left has given reason a bad name. We can’t fight for reason until we explain what it is and, I believe, show that it is accepted and taken for granted to a large degree by conservatives. The anti-science environmentalism on the left dwarfs the threat of a ban of government funding of stem cell research. The anti-empirical rejection of economic law among left-liberals and totalitarians has devastated the world while conservatives held on to sound classical economic theory and policy.

I think we can point out the historical role of reason if we review history and distinguish it from the bogus nonsense that masquerades for reason and science emanating from the left. The left is far more dogmatic and doctrinaire. What could be more anti-reason? Besides, the right is open to discussion and welcomes the debates. Look at Front Page Magazine today (here and here.)

Now, as AOW notes, religious conservatives are worried about the pacifist tendencies by some Christian groups. But, as many conservatives point out, the secular left in Europe looks like it is ready to surrender to Islam. Most conservatives seek an explanation for the left's appeasement and surrender attitude and they find it in a lack of belief. Thus, this is a good issue for debate.

Pastorius, a blogger who frequents these parts, raises the question about a pacifist streak in Christianity. He looks at mainstream religious groups and sees an opposition to our fighting the Islamic threat. The debate continued over at Gates of Vienna. I suggest there is an opening here for the discussion of our Greco-Roman heritage. This is what we need to revive. Most Christians are open to this idea even if they believe Hellenic rationalism and Roman virtu aren’t enough. But that’s the debate.

After the 12th century Renaissance, Aristotle was so revered that Aquinas starts his massive opus with the question: “Is philosophy enough?” The bastardization of reason and secularism by the left in the last 200 years means we have to explain the older tradition and how it is still felt today in our laws and customs. This, to me, seems like the promising path but clearly not the only path. Start a blog so we can visit, fully consider your arguement, and comment on your approach. You have a lot to say.

6/8/06, 8:48 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I concur with Jason that “The Islamic threat exposes our culture’s weakness: we are in denial of the threat…sit in fear of the future…and blame ourselves for the problem…” One might add that the problem originates with us, as we enable and accommodate the enemy. As he says “It’s we that have to change, not Muslims.”

What then should be changed? Jason points to the imperative to restore the foundations on which our civilization was based, and in particular the elements of individual rights, and the means of reason. One might include the objective aspirations of truth, justice, and beauty.

However, *I do not believe that the critical distinction between ourselves and our enemy is that of rationality versus faith*. Let us note that Islam is not merely opposed to rationality, but to all other religions and faiths. There is much that is worthwhile in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, etc., that is viewed as horrendous by the Muslims. *To divide the world into rationality and faith, is to place virtually all of our allies into the camp of the enemy.*

Nor am I speaking about having an unholy tactical alliance with the religionists, as we had for example with the USSR in WWII. I find genuine virtue within religions, despite the nonsense of their often treating what is best viewed as poetry as though it were a literal or concrete description of facts (which is called ‘reification’).

Consider for example Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor of the German Evangelical Church, whose faith led him to oppose fascism. He had a safe and fruitful existence in America, but his conscience led him to return to Germany, where he was later hanged in a concentration camp at Flossenbürg, for his efforts (which included the conspiracy to bomb Hitler). Would you say that he was on our side, or theirs?

The difference between ourselves and the enemy is in part a matter of rationality, but it is also a matter of good will versus animosity, or civilization versus barbarism.

There is then a subtle distinction between faith that opposes reason, and faith that deals with what is not decidable at this time by reason. Let us note that virtually all of what has turned out to be virtuous, was at one time a fuzzy and unperfected sense, that could not be viewed as rational. My point is that we needn’t be in conflict with faiths that share our vision of the dignity of the individual, but only with those that oppose the human spirit.

As an aside, I think highly of Ayn Rand, and of Objectivism as a means of validation (although not as a Weltanschauung or religion). I also concur that the Christian (and Jewish) pacifism, or self-sacrifice, is the main ideological problem, and underlies the suicide of the West.

6/8/06, 10:00 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
My idea is that we can point out the influence of Hellenic rationalism on Western Civilization. I find that most religious people don’t find that offensive at all but welcome the discussion.

For me, getting offended by such a discussion is a manifestation of insecurity or of legalism. I don't have much patience with either.

religious conservatives are worried about the pacifist tendencies by some Christian groups. But, as many conservatives point out, the secular left in Europe looks like it is ready to surrender to Islam. Most conservatives seek an explanation for the left's appeasement and surrender attitude and they find it in a lack of belief. Thus, this is a good issue for debate.

I recently had a discussion with a Christian from what I term "the far right." He tried to tell me that no secularist can recognize the threat from Islam. I disabused him of that notion, but I'm not sure he believed me. Ah, well.

But an interesting portion of that conversation related to the lack of education among conservative Christians. He agreed with me that there is more to life than pouring over theological texts. At least we managed to come to an understanding on that particular issue.

The Christian teaching of turn-the other-cheek, often used to justify pacifism, relates to interpersonal relations and is NOT a foundation for political policy. However, the church has corrupted that teaching and is trying to apply it to all sorts of situations.

I know that evangelical Christians see the solution as converting Muslims to Christ. And I don't have a problem with that belief. But conversion is not the short-term solution! And self-defense is certainly not unbiblical. So I favor letting the missionaries preach, but take the necessary political and military steps as well.

I don't want to clutter up Jason's site with a lot of theological discussion, but the Bible contains a verse about accepting "whatsoever things are good." I take that to mean that not every one of my ideological allies need be a theological one.

Western civilization, however you want to define that terminology outside of pc--certainly using reason is part of Western civilization--is worth saving. Islam is bent on destroying Western civilization.

I hope that I'm making sense here. I'm having a bit of trouble finding the words I want to use. A bit of insomnia last night has affected my brain cells!

6/8/06, 2:28 PM  
Blogger leelion said...

Interesting discussion.

Christians, Libertarians, Objectivists, etc, do have much in common, and share a common enemy, yet have obvious differences.

I have many great Christian friends, good people, but most will never openly admit the truth of the Islamic threat.

Maybe it's fear of being labelled a rascist, a bigot, whatever, but they are afraid to confront the truth.

6/9/06, 3:40 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Lee Lion,
I have many great Christian friends, good people, but most will never openly admit the truth of the Islamic threat.

After 9/11 and right after the London bombings, more of my Christian friends became more open to discussion. Apparently, it takes a horrific attack, or an attempt at one, to get most people to pay attention.

6/9/06, 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Allan Weingartan has an excellent point that most people of faith don’t see it conflicting with reason. Often this means that faith has its domain and reason has hers. Thus, it is more interesting to see how a person fits faith into their life and politics before comming to a conclusion. And AOW gives us a good example.

Let’s remember that the Founding Fathers never agreed on religion except perhaps that God created the universe. After that everything was up for discussion. Those who were devout, when back to their churches and decided for themselves if they could reconcile, with their religion, the course of action about to take place. But the literature at the time shows history and philosophy were the inter-denominational language used to establish the course of action. Religion was often a personal motivator and expressions of righteousness were often in religious terms.

You’ll find that in the Civil War, also! Read the lyrics of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And you can be sure the South expressed their belief in the righteousness of their cause in religious terms. (They also believed they had the first explicitly Christian constitution.) But would anyone say that was a religious war? Of course, not! But religious individuals will seek support and confirmation from their religion and express the belief in a just cause using religious language. They may take it literally but I like the spirit of such songs as the Battle Hymn. There’s no reason why we can’t march together.

Indeed, our differences are minor as compared to the enemy just as Republicans and Democrats joined to fight Hitler despite differences. Let's get a perspective.

6/9/06, 8:38 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

After that everything was up for discussion.

On second thought that's a bit of an exaggeration. They had many differences about religion but they share some core sensibilities on proper behavior.

6/9/06, 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Raymond Smalley said...

Dear Jason,

I am contacting you on behalf of Raj Bhakta for Congress. I am writing because this campaign respects your impressive website which showcases your immense talent.

Blogs are underutilized in politics. This campaign is interested in developing a strong relationship with you, so that your blog may reach it’s maximum potential. Please contact upon receiving this e-mail, as I would like future communication.

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Raj for Congress
www.rajforcongress.com

6/9/06, 7:54 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

There are only two ways this battle can end. Either we use our economic clout and bury the SOB or we will be swept away. Europe is history as low birth rates and eurosocialism has sealed Europes decline.

6/9/06, 8:15 PM  
Blogger leelion said...

Jason, off topic but you mentioned the American Civil War. If you or anyone else can recommend a book on it I'd appreciate it. As a non American it has both perplexed and intrigued me. 600,000 dead? Lee

6/10/06, 1:09 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I'd like to improve my knowledge of the Civil War. So I'll ask others what books they'd recommend to both LeeLion and me.

6/10/06, 7:46 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Books about the Civil War...

1. A huge tome, but I have in my library The Civil War: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward, et al:
From Amazon:
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 5, 1990)
Language: English
ISBN: 0394562852


2. A shorter read which debunks some commonly held myths about the Civil War (and about other periods in American history):
The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.
From Amazon:
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Regnery Publishing, Inc. (December 2004)
Language: English
ISBN: 0895260476


The latter is easily available from multiple sources.

3. An excellent book for those interested in Abraham Lincoln:

The Day Lincoln Was Shot. I recommend this book with the highest of praise!

6/10/06, 9:09 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Most of my Civil War book recommendations are about soldiers, generals, battles, strategy, and logistics.

Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, by Gerald Lindeman is a personal favorite. It was one of the "textbooks" of my university-level history course on the American Civil War. Much of it is soldier's letters home.

6/10/06, 5:58 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

"Polls show an increase in the number of people who believe that Islam underwrites the barbaric behavior of jihadist terrorists..."

Good grief! AOW, do you mean that (gasp!) despite the years and years of efforts of our government-run postmodernist schools that PEOPLE STILL HAVE SOME CONFIDENCE IN THE EVIDENCE OF THEIR SENSES?

Dare we hope?

6/10/06, 9:27 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Jason_Pappas said...


"Allan Weingartan has an excellent point that most people of faith don’t see it conflicting with reason. Often this means that faith has its domain and reason has hers."

This process of "compartmentalization" is one of the ways most religions differ, to the advantage of all of us, from Islam, which is an entire and fully integrated system where no compartmentalization is permitted.

"Compartmentalization" allows people to put into separate "boxes" many of those items that are faith-based, while at the same time allowing them to put into another "box" many things requiring reason.

It also has another advantage; compartmentalization allows selectivity with respect to religious belief. If a believer in Jesus Christ has his own ideas that are inconsistent with those of his fellows, he can basically form a new Christian religion, a new sect. Lots of people, perhaps the most famous being Martin Luther - or maybe it was Henry the VIII (well, you get the idea) have done it.

We have dozens and dozens of sects and many religions not based on a belief in Jesus in this country, all because people have the freedom to "compartmentalize."

We - believers and non-believers - can debate our differences, but it's rare to see our disagreements erupt into violence. None of us has the power of government to force the other to conform to his belief system, but we all can count on the force of government to protect us from becoming violent about our disagreements.

Islam doesn't permit compartmentalism, and the force of government makes sure that no one can, for example, reject the idea that the Koran is the literal word of Allah, or the nasty, mean-spirited, violence-advocating parts, and go off to form a new sect based on these gentler views.

There are a few around, but even in a non-Muslim country, it isn't easy for a Muslim to "compartmentalize."

6/10/06, 9:48 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I appreciated Cubed's view that "Islam doesn't permit compartmentalism, and the force of government makes sure that no one can, for example, reject the idea that the Koran is the literal word of Allah..." *One cannot argue with what Mohammed said, since what he said is defined as what consitutes truth.* Thus, if Mohammed said that truth does not exist, or that violence is peace, there is no basis on which a believer could be convinced that he was mistaken. Islam is a view that prohibits falsification, and as such does not have a place for what the rest of us view as conscience (or even the evidence of the senses).

Perhaps, for that reason, we do not find any creativity flowing from the beliefs of Islam, that compares with those associated with Christianity or Judaism or other faiths. One can find an Isaac Newton, who was a Christian, a Nachmonides who was a Jew, or a Godel who believed in a non-denominational God. But I am unaware of any comparable creative mind that was steeped in Islam. (This does not deny that Islamists can be quite intelligent, but rather that they do not sustain the human spirit.)

6/10/06, 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Raymond Smalley said...

Hello,

I am contacting you on behalf of Raj Bhakta for Congress. I am writing because this campaign respects your impressive website which showcases your immense talent.

Blogs are underutilized in politics. This campaign is interested in developing a strong relationship with you, so that your blog may reach it’s maximum potential. Please contact upon receiving this e-mail, as I would like future communication.

Sincerely,
Raymond Smalley
Raj for Congress
www.rajforcongress.com

6/10/06, 11:32 PM  
Blogger leelion said...

Thanks for recommendations, there's so much to learn in this world! AOW, you made me realize I know next to nothing about Abraham Lincoln, another gap in my knowledge.

Jason, my sister works for Telstra (telecom) Australia. She just returned from business in New York and said, "God, New York City, its the best city in the world. Buzzes and hums with life 24/7."

She wants to live there.

Long live America I say. Lee

6/11/06, 6:24 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Cubed,
Islam doesn't permit compartmentalism, and the force of government makes sure that no one can

More evidence of the necessity of separation of state and organized religion. When most states separated from specific churches, the advantages for personal freedom became many.

6/12/06, 9:53 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I concur with always on watch about "the necessity of separation of state and organized religion." Yet I would add that in addition to this being a practical matter (of how things work), it is a theoretical precept. Religion (and culture in general) derives from the freedom of man to be guided by his aspirations. Conversely, the state is a mechanism of force, for restraining aggression.

Freedom and coercion (or culture and government) constitute a dualism, where the former is necessary to permit the enhancement of man, while the latter is necessary to protect him from destruction. Yet, *the components of this dualism must not impede one another*. This general precept applies as well to separating education & the economy from state intervention, as much as is feasible.

For my part, I am skeptical about what is shown by experience, until it is derived from theory.

6/12/06, 2:01 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

I am reading Toynbee's account of the Armenian Genocide and it is eerily similar to the Polish roundups by the Commies. There is a passing similarity to the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

It seems that Utopian Genociadal nuts follow a pattern. Its too bad our generation has Noam Chimpanze instead of Toynbee.

6/12/06, 10:34 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jason:

Excellent!

If we are to fight the Islamic threat, we again have to renew that sprit and revive the capacity to fight the enemy. This is where we stand today.

How true your words are!

6/16/06, 4:38 PM  

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