The View From 1776

§ American Traditions

§ People and Ideas

§ Decline of Western Civilization: a Snapshot

§ Books to Read


Liberal_Jihad_Cover.jpg Forward USA

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Axis of Theism

The New Pantagruel has a hopeful essay about the survival of spiritual religion.

Mustafa Akyol is a Muslim residing in Turkey, one of the most secular of the Islamic political states.  As Bernard Lewis points out, ironically it was precisely the iron-handed rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk after World War I that broke down the ancient theocratic rule of Islam and gave modern Turkey more political liberties than other Islamic states, opening the way for women’s full participation in politics, business, and the professions.  Perhaps because of that heritage, Mr. Akyol is better informed about Western cultural, religious, and political reality than the stereotypical Arab “street,” who hear only anti-Western propaganda from the Ayatollahs. 

In any case, his article The Parliament of The World’s Religions and The Axis of Theism gives us hope, first, that spiritual religion is not dead, even in secular Europe.  Second, it suggests that there may be sufficient potentially common ground among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to form a united front against the secularity of the humanist movement, represented in the United States by liberal-socialism.

Mr. Akyol begins with an overview of an international religious meeting: “In July 7-13, 2004, in the beautiful city of Barcelona, there was an extraordinary international meeting that gathered some seven thousand people from all over the world. The meeting was for The Parliament of the World?s Religions and the attendees were believers from all different kind of traditions. From many denominations of Christians, Jews and Muslims to Buddhist, Sikhs, Hindus or even self-proclaimed pagans, it was truly a global coverage of the world?s faiths.”

He continues: “...even the very existence of such an event is a remarkable phenomenon, since it implicitly manifests the fall of the modernist vision. That vision, which was basically the product of 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century positivism, defined religion as a superstition that would die out with the progress of science and human knowledge.”

Yet, he cautions: “...the return of ?religion? per se does not necessarily mean a return to God. .... From Unitarians to Scientologists, or from pagans to Hare Krishna folks, there were many cults that disagreed with the shallowness of materialism but tried to fill it with exotic faiths in vague deities. I felt something similar to what St. Paul felt in the Areopagus of Athens. Like the ?Unknown God? of those ancient Greeks, most of these post-modern spiritualists believe in a mere ?universal energy?. Of course, ?energies? don?t give us moral codes or listen to our prayers….. In fact, the distinction at this point can be interpreted as the difference between humanism and theism….The problem with humanism is not only that it ignores the truth, but also that it does not keep its promise to make us happy. As C. S. Lewis once well explained, ?if you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth?only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.  Non-theistic spiritualism, like materialism, is a way that promises comfort but leads to despair.”

The other very interesting point Mr. Akyol makes has to do with the future of relations between the formerly Christian West and the Islamic East.  He writes: “Another message that I inferred from Parliament of the World?s Religions is the inadequacy of the famous ? or notorious ? thesis of ?the Clash of Civilizations? put forward by Samuel Huntington a decade ago and has been shaping many minds since then. The most provoking part of Huntington?s thesis was the presumed conflict between the so-called Western and Islamic civilizations. As noted by many critiques, the diversity of both of the ?civilizations? in question negates this clear-cut scenario. Another fact that further negates Huntington is the existence of different axes which cut across his civilizational borders. The axis of theism, as one might call, is the most notable one. Faithful Christians, Jews and Muslims have so much in common that they could in fact present a common global culture against the materialism and hedonism of modernity.”

Daily suicide bombings by jihadists and Al Queda’s vow to kill tens of thousands of Americans make such commonality seem of small likelihood.  But we must all pray that God will soften the hearts of Islam’s militant cohorts.