According to Roger Scuton, because of political correctness:
A story of rampant child abuse—ignored and abetted by the police—is emerging out of the British town of Rotherham. Until now, its scale and scope would have been inconceivable in a civilized country. Its origins, however, lie in something quite ordinary: what one Labour MP called "not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat."
The fact that Brits object to their daughters being abused by foreigners shows that they are benighted nativists, racists, white supremacists with an irrational fear, a phobia, of foreigners. Right? And that is what Brexit was all about: an irrational fear of foreigners. Right?
As an addendum to The Incompatibility of Islam and the West, let me add that the case against Muslim immigration is political not religious. It is because Muslims are politically subversive that their immigration must be curtailed or eliminated, not because they have a different religion.
The U. S. Constitution in its First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion: one is free to practice the religion of one's choice, or refrain from the practice of any religion.
Now if Islam were a religion like Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism, there would be no problem. But Islam is unique. On an extreme view which I do not endorse, Islam is a political ideology masquerading as a religion; on a moderate view, which I do endorse, it is a hybrid ideology: at once both a religion and a political ideology. Either way is not a pure religion.
Qua political ideology, Islam is incompatible with Western values, or at least U. S. values. One reason for this is that Islam is not tolerant of religious diversity. It cannot be since it blends the religious and the secular and does not recognize the separation of church/mosque and state. Secular law is driven by Islamic law, or rather secular law just is Islamic law. So the 'infidel,' whether Buddhist, Christian, Jew, or whatever, must either convert or accept dhimmitude.
Everybody profiles. Liberals are no exception. Liberals reveal their prejudices by where they live, shop, send their kids to school, and with whom they associate.
The word 'prejudice' needs analysis.
It could refer to blind prejudice: unreasoning, reflexive (as opposed to reflective) aversion to what is other just because it is other, or to an unreasoning pro-attitude toward the familiar just because it is familiar. We should all condemn blind prejudice. It is execrable to hate a person just because he is of a different color, for example. No doubt, but how many people do that? How many people who are averse to blacks are averse because of their skin color as opposed to their behavior patterns? Racial prejudice is not, in the main, prejudice based on skin color, but on behavior.
'Prejudice' could also mean 'prejudgment.' Although blind prejudice is bad, prejudgment is generally good. We cannot begin our cognitive lives anew at every instant. We rely upon the 'sedimentation' of past experience. Changing the metaphor, we can think of prejudgments as distillations from experience. The first time I 'serve' my cats whisky they are curious. After that, they cannot be tempted to come near a shot glass of Jim Beam. They distill from their unpleasant olfactory experiences a well-grounded prejudice against the products of the distillery.
My prejudgments about rattlesnakes are in place and have been for a long time. I don't need to learn about them afresh at each new encounter with one. I do not treat each new one encountered as a 'unique individual,' whatever that might mean. Prejudgments are not blind, but experience-based, and they are mostly true. The adult mind is not a tabula rasa. What experience has written, she retains, and that's all to the good.
So there is good prejudice and there is bad prejudice. The teenager thinks his father prejudiced in the bad sense when he warns the son not to go into certain parts of town after dark. Later the son learns that the old man was not such a bigot after all: the father's prejudice was not blind but had a fundamentum in re. The old man was justified in his prejudgment.
But if you stay away from certain parts of town are you not 'discriminating' against them? Well of course, but not all discrimination is bad. Everybody discriminates. Liberals are especially discriminating. The typical Scottsdale liberal would not be caught dead supping in some of the Apache Junction dives I have been found in. Liberals discriminate in all sorts of ways. That's why Scottsdale is Scottsdale and not Apache Junction.
Is the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' as marriage discriminatory? Of course! But not all discrimination is bad. Indeed, some is morally obligatory. We discriminate against felons when we disallow their possession of firearms. Will you argue against that on the ground that it is discriminatory? If not, then you cannot cogently argue against the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' on the ground that it is discriminatory. You need a better argument. And what would that be?
'Profiling,' like 'prejudice' and 'discrimination,' has come to acquire a wholly negative connotation. Unjustly. What's wrong with profiling? We all do it, and we are justified in doing it. Consider criminal profiling.
It is obvious that only certain kinds of people commit certain kinds of crimes. Suppose a rape has occurred at the corner of Fifth and Vermouth. Two males are moving away from the crime scene. One, the slower moving of the two, is a Jewish gentleman, 80 years of age, with a chess set under one arm and a copy of Maimonides'Guide for the Perplexed under the other. The other fellow, a vigorous twenty-year-old, is running from the scene.
Who is more likely to have committed the rape? If you can't answer this question, then you lack common sense. But just to spell it out for you liberals: octogenarians are not known for their sexual prowess: the geezer is lucky if he can get it up for a two-minute romp with a very cooperative partner. Add chess playing and an interest in Maimonides and you have one harmless dude.
Or let's say you are walking down a street in Mesa, Arizona. On one side of the street you spy some fresh-faced Mormon youths, dressed in their 1950s attire, looking like little Romneys, exiting a Bible studies class. On the other side of the street, Hells (no apostrophe!) Angels are coming out of their club house. Which side of the street would you feel safer on? On which side will your concealed semi-auto .45 be more likely to see some use?
The problem is not so much that liberals are stupid, as that they have allowed themselves to be stupefied by that cognitive aberration known as political correctness.
Their brains are addled by the equality fetish: everybody is equal, they think, in every way. So the vigorous 20-year-old is not more likely than the old man to have committed the rape. The Mormon and the Hells Angel are equally law-abiding. And the twenty-something Egyptian Muslim is no more likely to be a terrorist than the Mormon matron from Salt Lake City.
Clearly, what we need are more profiling, more prejudgment, and more discrimination (in the good sense). And fewer liberals.
A note on the above image. Suppose all you know about the two individuals is what you see. The point is that the likelihood of the old white lady's being a terrorist is much, much less than the likelihood of the man's being a terrorist. This is what justifies profiling and why it is insane to subject both individuals to the same level of scrutiny. For that would be to assume something obviously false, namely, that both individuals are equally likely to be terrorists.
Again we face the question why liberals are so preternaturally stupid. And again, the answer is that they have enstupidated themselves with their political correctness and their fetishization of equality.
So we come back to the concept of Sharia, which you rightly mentioned in one of your posts. This is really the thing where Islam stands out from other religions, the idea that religious belief should be the basis of law. Here I found Islamic Law: The Sharia from Muhammad's Time to the Present (Hunt Janin, André Kahlmeyer) useful. The concept of Sharia is essential to Islamic belief. See Sura 33:35—36. Islam means ‘submission’: the primary duty of human beings is to submit totally to the will of God. The sharia shows the faithful how this submission should be put into practice in daily life.
[The sharia] does not grow out of, and is not moulded by, society as is the case with Western systems. Human thought, unaided, cannot discern the true values and standards of conduct; such knowledge can only he attained through divine revelation, and acts are good or evil exclusively because God has attributed this quality to them. In the Islamic concept, law precedes and moulds society; to its eternally valid dictates the structure of State and society must, ideally, conform.
Notwithstanding the great outpouring of books and articles which have appeared in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Islamic world is still not understood in the West today. The sharia is, beyond any question, one of the most important concepts of Islam, but most non-Muslims know almost nothing about it.
I wholly endorse the foregoing as an understanding of Islam. Islam is a hybrid ideology: both a religion and a political system. Sharia, or Islamic law, is essential to it. Coming from God, it cannot be questioned by man: man must submit to it. The primary meaning of 'Islam' is submission. God's law must be imposed on all and woven into the fabric of everyday life. There is no provision in Islam for mosque-state separation. But that is to put it in the form of an understatement. Islam positively rules out mosque-state separation.
John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (Yale UP, 1989, pp. 48-49):
From the point of view of the understanding of this state of islam [submission to Allah] the Muslim sees no distinction between the religious and the secular. The whole of life is to be lived in the presence of Allah and is the sphere of God's absolute claim and limitless compassion and mercy. And so islam, God-centredness, is not only an inner submission to the sole Lord of the universe but also a pattern of corporate life in accordance with God's will. It involves both salat, worship, and falah, the good embodied in behaviour. Through the five appointed moments of prayer each day is linked to God. Indeed almost any activity may be begun with Bismillah ('in the name of Allah'); and plans and hopes for the future are qualified by Inshallah ('if Allah wills'). Thus life is constantly punctuated by the remembrance of God. It is a symptom of this that almsgiving ranks with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and confession of faith as one of the five 'pillars' of Islam. Within this holistic conception the 'secular' spheres of politics, government, law, commerce, science and the arts all come within the scope of religious obedience.
What Hick calls a "holistic conception," I would call totalitarian. Islam is totalitarian in a two-fold sense. It aims to regulate every aspect and every moment of the individual believer's life. (And if you are not a believer, you must either convert or accept dhimmitude.) But it is also totalitarian in a corporate sense in that it aims to control every aspect of society in all its spheres, just as Hick points out supra.
Islam, therefore, is profoundly at odds with the values of the West. For we in the West, whether (old-time) liberals or conservatives, accept church(mosque)-state separation. We no doubt argue heatedly over what exactly it entails, but we are agreed on the main principle. I regularly criticize the shysters of the ACLU for their extremist positions on this question; but I agree with them that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." This implies that the government shall not impose any religion upon the people as the state religion.
This raises a very serious question. Is Islam -- pure, unEnlightened, un-watered-down, fundamentalist, theocratic Islam -- deserving of First Amendment protection? We read in the First Amendment that Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Should that be understood to mean that the Federal government shall not prohibit the establishment and free exercise of a totalitarian, fundamentalist theocratic religion in a particular state, say Michigan?
The USA is a Christian nation with a secular government. Suppose there was a religion whose aim was to subvert our secular government. Does commitment to freedom of religion enjoin toleration of such a religion?
Obviously not! Sharia is essential to true Islam. But Sharia is subversive of our system of government. So we are under no obligation from the Constitution to tolerate Sharia-based Islam. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. This implies that Muslims who do not renounce Sharia should not be eligible for positions in the government.
"But this violates Article VI of the Constitution!" No it doesn't. There we read that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." But this cannot possibly be interpreted in such a way as to allow into the government elements subversive of the system of government the Constitution defines.
Why is Islam incompatible with the West? It is because Islam violates the separation of the religious and secular spheres. But why should they be kept apart? One reason is that we in the West have come to realize over the centuries that no one can legitimately claim to know the answers to the Big Questions about God, the soul, the purpose of human existence, the nature of the good, and so on. Only if one were absolutely certain of the answers to these questions would one be justified in imposing them via state power on everyone and forcing everyone to live in accordance with them. If we know that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that God has condemned sodomy, and sanctioned the killing of sodomites, then we would perhaps be justified in outlawing sodomy and punishing it by death as it is indeed punished in some ten Muslim countries.
But surely no one of us KNOWS that God exists, let alone that God has revealed himself to man, let alone in a particular book or set of books, let alone inerrantly. Not knowing these things we have a good reason to tolerate homosexual and heterosexual sodomites, subject to certain restrictions, e.g. 'between consenting adults,' etc. We have reason to allow such behavior as legally permissible even if it in fact morally impermissible. For again, even if sodomy is is in fact morally impermissible because condemned by God , no one can legitimately claim to KNOW that it is.
An obfuscatory leftist phrase. And therefore used by Obama the Mendacious. Why obfuscatory? Because it elides an important distinction between those terrorists who are truly homegrown such as Timothy McVeigh and those who, while born in the USA, such as Omar Mateen, derive their 'inspiration' from foreign sources. Mateen's terrorism comes from his understanding of what Islam requires, namely, the liquidation of homosexuals. There is nothing homegrown about Islam. This in stark contrast to the American sources of McVeigh's terrorism.
It is perfectly obvious why liberals and leftists use 'homegrown terrorist' in application to the likes of Mateen: they want to deflect attention from the real problem, which is radical Islam.
From the 1980s to the present. Some lists are 'static,' some 'dynamic.' The Ten Commandments is static whereas the list of Islamist outrages is unfortunately dynamic, highly dynamic.
Exercise for the reader. Compile a list of Christian terror attacks from the 1980s to the present and compare its length to that of the Islamist list. Make sure that you put on this list only those acts whose justification lies in orthodox Christian doctrine, and not acts by people who just happen to be residents of 'Christian' lands.
Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 13 June: "Omar Mateen despised gays in the same way that Donald Trump and too many of his supporters despise Muslims."
Why isn't this libel?
'Libel' as defined in the law:
1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander, which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Read more.
Dvorak and her employers ought to be careful. Trump is a vindictive man with the will and the wherewithal to take legal action against his enemies. There are plenty of negative things she could say about the man that are true.
Whether or not Dvorak's outrageous statement counts as libel, she has no evidence for it. To call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration is perfectly reasonable in present circumstances and does not imply any hatred of Muslims.
Analogy. The law forbids the sale of firearms to felons. I think this provision of the law is wise and good and conducive unto law and order. Does that make me a hater of felons? I don't hate them; I merely hold that it would be unwise to allow them to purchase firearms. Similarly, I don't hate Muslims, I merely hold that in present circumstances it would be wise to vet carefully immigrants from Muslim lands.
It's about time these establishment types began wising up:
[. . .] Immigration to the U.S., and citizenship itself, should be seen, again, as a privilege, not a right—and assimilation and integration, not multicultural separatism and ethnic and religious chauvinism, should be the goal of the host. We need not single out Muslims in terms of restricting immigration, but we should take a six-month timeout on all would-be immigrants from countries in the Middle East deemed war zones—Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen—not only for our own immediate security but also to send a general message that entrance into the U.S. is a rare and prized opportunity, not simply a cheap and pro forma entitlement.
The inability of Barack Obama and the latest incarnation of Hillary Clinton to utter “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” in connection with Muslims’ murderous killing sprees again is exposed as an utterly bankrupt, deadly, and callous politically correct platitude. Mateen did not learn to hate homosexuals from the American government, popular American culture, or our schools, but rather from radical and likely ISIS-driven Islamic indoctrination. From Iran to Saudi Arabia, the treatment of gays is reprehensible—but largely exempt from Western censure, on the tired theory that in the confused pantheon of -isms and -ologies, multiculturalism trumps human rights.
Finally, the Left will blame guns, not ideology, for the mass murder, forgetting that disarmed soldiers who could not shoot back were slaughtered by Major Hasan, that the Tsarnaev brothers preferred home-cooked explosives to blow up innocents in Boston, that the Oklahoma and UC Merced Islamists did their beheading or stabbing with a knife, and that Mateen likely followed strict gun-registration laws in obtaining his weapons.
Indeed. There is no right to immigrate, and the USA has no obligation to accept subversive elements. We do have a right, however, to demand assimilation. This has definite consequences. If you are a taxi driver you cannot refuse to accept as a fare a person coming out of a liquor store with a closed container of spirits. If you work check out in a supermarket, you cannot refuse to touch a package of bacon. If you refuse, you ought to be fired on the spot. If you want to dress up like a nun of the 1950s, go right ahead, but we had better be able to see your face.
We are tolerant, but not to the point of tolerating the intolerance of Sharia. You must renounce it and accept our values if you wish to live among us.
We are peace-loving, but we are prepared to defend our superior culture against barbarians.
Well, it has come to a nightclub, a homosexual establishment, though it might not be near you. But do you think that this is the last incident of its kind? Bruce Bawer at the excellent City Journal:
On CNN and Fox News, one politician after another professed to be “shocked” by the massacre in Orlando. “Who would have expected such a thing?” people kept asking. Actually, I’ve been expecting just such a thing for years. The only shock was that it took this long for some jihadist to go after a gay establishment.
Islamic law, after all, is crystal clear on homosexuality, though the various schools of sharia prescribe a range of penalties: one calls for death by stoning; another demands that the transgressor be thrown from a high place; a third says to drop a building on him. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, as well as in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, homosexuality is indeed punishable by death.
Nor do Muslims magically change their views on the subject when they move to the West. [. . .]
Donald Trump has many sound ideas, many more than Hillary does. This is why you should vote for him. One of the sound ideas is that it it would make sense to have a moratorium on Muslim immigration. The trouble with The Donald, however, is that he cannot express his sound ideas properly in a non-incendiary and nuanced way, adding such qualifications as are necessary. So he comes across as a nativist yahoo. But he is still basically right, just as Lindsey Graham is still basically an idiot for denouncing Trump's proposal as "xenophobic." Is Graham a closet leftist? That is the way leftists talk. Anyone with sense knows that there is nothing 'xenophobic' or 'Islamophobic' about carefully vetting Muslim immigrants.
Vote for Hillary and you can expect more Islamist outrages on our soil. In this respect, she is nothing but Obama in drag. Vote for Trump and the chances are good that there will be fewer such outrages.
Don't forget that politics is not about choosing between the good and the bad, but between the better and the worse. You should also realize that not to decide is to decide; in particular, to abstain from our lousy presidential choice is to aid and abet the destructive Hillary.
Let me see if I understand this. Every vestige of Christianity is to be removed from the public square, while Muslims are allowed to impose their anti-Enlightenment and un-American values and practices in said square at taxpayer expense?
Mr. Cohen feels that Trump is betraying the principles that America stands for:
It ['betrayal'] is the word that comes to mind almost on a nightly basis when I see some Trump surrogate defend his position on one of the cable news shows. How can you? I want to ask. Do you believe that the government should apply a religious test to let people into this country? Christians? Yes. Jews? Sure. Buddhists, Hindus and Zoroastrians, step this way. Muslims? Not so fast.
Do the people who support Trump realize that they are betraying not merely Muslims but the principles that America stands for? We don't apply religious tests to anything. In that way, we are different than some other countries. In that way, we are better.
How foolish can a liberal be? There is no right to immigrate and the U.S. has no obligation to allow subversives into the country. Now sharia-supporting Muslims are subversives. The values of sharia are antithetical to American values. So it makes perfect sense to carefully vet Muslims who seek to come here. Only those who renounce sharia and show a willingness to assimilate should be allowed in. We have every right to preserve and protect our culture and values.
The U.S. Constitution is not a suicide pact, and it obviously needs to be interpreted in such a way that it is not made into one. Article VI ends as follows: ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Whether a test is religious depends on what counts as a religion. Is Islam a religion? There are those who maintain that it is a political ideology masquerading as a religion. If this is right, 'no religious test' does not apply to Islam. On a more moderate view, Islam is a hybrid ideology: both a religion and a political ideology incompatible with American values. But then my point about subversive elements kicks in.
Only if a Muslim renounces sharia, embraces American values, and shows a willingness to assimilate should he be allowed into our country. Isn't this just common sense? Of course it is, and it is precisely what liberal idiots like Cohen lack. These same idiots typically label 'xenophobic' those who express such rational concerns as I am now expressing. A phobia is an irrational fear, but there is nothing irrational about fear of Muslim subversives. Typical liberal behavior: misuse language and slander your opponent.
With fools there can be no productive dialogue. We are left with condemning them for their willful stupidity.
So while Trump's rhetoric is incendiary and irresponsible, the essential content of his message about Muslim immigration and Mexican illegal immigration is sound and easily defended.
Will he build a wall the length of the Mexican border? Probably not. But will he secure the border? Probably so. Will a Democrat – whether Hillary, Bernie or Joe Biden, secure our borders and stop the flow of illegals, criminals and terrorists? Certainly not. In addition to their decades long war for amnesties and open boarders, Democrats are responsible for the more than 350 “Sanctuary Cities” that openly defy federal law and provide safe havens for those same illegals, criminals and terrorists.
Open borders, Sanctuary Cities, importing unvetted Muslim refugees from the Middle East are but the tip of the iceberg in assessing the threat that the Democratic Party and its candidate (whoever it is) pose to America’s national security. For twenty-three years since the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the Democratic Party has been the party of appeasement and retreat in the holy war that fanatical Muslims have declared on us. The first bombing of the World Trade Center misfired but still killed 6 people and wounded 1,000 others. Clinton never visited the site while his administration insisted on treating it as a criminal act by individuals who needed to be tried in criminal courts, an attitude that would culminate in Barack Obama’s refusal to recognize that we were in a war at all, and certainly not one with fanatical Muslims. To a man and woman the Democratic Party’s elected officials continue to participate in and support this denial.
Following the first World Trade Center bombing, there were three more devastating attacks on American assets by al-Qaeda’s barbarians during the Clinton administration, with no response and no change of mind towards the nature of the threat. There were also massive security breaches, including the theft by Communist China of America’s nuclear arsenal and the publishing of all our hitherto classified data from America’s nuclear weapons tests. Clinton’s leftist Secretary of Energy published the reports for the world to see, as she put it, “to end the bomb-building culture.
Stephen Moore lays into Michael Gerson here as I did here.
In other 'enabling' news, French concert organizers ban Eagles of Death Metal.
If you want to know how lost Europe is, how thoroughly it has abandoned freedom of speech, get this: two French music festivals have banned Eagles of Death Metal, the American rock band whose gig at the Bataclan was turned into a bloodbath by Isis last November, after the lead singer said some dodgy things about Muslims.
Dodgy? What the Spectator piece reports the lead singer as saying looks to be simply true.
Political correctness is amazingly insidious. It infects even those who are supposedly conservative and freedom-loving.
Every morning I find a new batch of anti-Trump articles by so-called conservatives. These anti-Trumpsters clearly see the man's many negatives, but most of them refuse to come clean on the question: "Do you advocate not voting for Trump thereby aiding and abetting a Clinton victory? Yes or no?"
Conservatives latched on to the GOP as an instrument to express their ideals. Now loyalty to party is causing many to abandon their ideals. Conservatism is not misogyny. Conservatism is not nativism and protectionism. Conservatism is not religious bigotry and conspiracy theories. Conservatism is not anti-intellectual and anti-science. For the sake of partisanship -- for a mess of pottage -- some conservatives are surrendering their identity.
Here is a little fair and balanced commentary on Gerson's outburst.
True, conservatism is not misogyny. And it is true that Trump has stupidly made misogynistic statements. By alienating the distaff half of the electorate, it is is a good bet that the foolish man has sealed his fate. We shall see. But whether he is fairly described as a misogynist is not clear given his appointment of women to high positions in his organization.
'Nativism' and 'protectionism,' like 'isolationism' are not neutral words. They are pejoratives. Suppose someone sees the failures and false assumptions of U. S. foreign policy and appreciates that some U. S. interventions make things worse instead of better. If you wanted to describe such a person fairly and neutrally you would call him a non-interventionist, not an isolationist. There are paleo-cons and neo-cons. A paleo-conservative non-interventionism, which need not exclude judicious and well-thought-out interventions, has arguably a better claim on the honorific 'conservative' than neo-conservative interventionism.
The same goes for 'protectionist' and 'nativist.' They are pejoratives. People interested in a serious discussion ought to use neutral terminology.
Suppose you are neither a libertarian nor a leftist. You appreciate that the U. S. is neither a shopping mall nor a job market. It is a nation with a culture, a long tradition, and a commitment to a set of values including liberty, self-reliance, self-determination, and constitutionally-based limited government. You appreciate that a nation has a right to preserve and protect its culture and resist its dilution let alone its "fundamental transformation." Having this right, a nation has the right to protect itself from illegal immigration and a right to select those groups which it will allow to immigrate. A nation has no obligation to allow immigration at all, let alone immigration of groups of people whose values are antithetical to the nation's values. True, immigration can enrich a nation if the immigrants are willing to assimilate and embrace the values and traditions of the host country. Ask yourself: are sharia-supporting Muslims immigrants of this kind? The answer is obviously in the negative.
There is no net benefit to Muslim immigation. Of course there are are wonderful individual Muslims. See my high praise for Zuhdi Jasser. But policies cannot cater to individuals.
'Nativism,' like 'racism,' is a term used by leftists and other destructive types to slander their opponents and pre-empt rational debate.
When people like Gerson employ the 'nativism' epithet they play the same filthy game as leftists. So how conservative are people like him? A conservative is not a leftist. Nor is a conservative a libertarian.
Is it "religious bigotry" to insist that subversive, sharia-supporting Muslims with no intention of assimilating and every intention of "fundamentally transforming America" not be allowed to immigrate? Of course not. It is just common sense.
I happen to live in Beirut and feel safe enough in the Christian area, which is the eastern quarter of the city along with big chunks of Mt. Lebanon and the coastal area as far north asTripoli, which is a Sunni hotbed.
I've asked a lot of Lebanese Christians if they feel safe. They worry more about Sunnis than Shia, and they are especially worried about the de facto resettlement here of a million Syrian refugees, who are mostly Sunnis. There's no love lost between the Christians and Hizbollah, which is Shia, but there is an unspoken toleration of it as long as Hizbollah helps keep Lebanon a ISIS-free zone. The security at Beirut airport, for example, is almost certainly penetrated by Hizbullah partisans. Most Lebanese see that as a line of defense against ISIS bomb-smugglers.
Safety is a relative concept. I wish my reader the best. Twenty years ago I spent a year in Turkey in Ankara, the capital. We travelled all over. I wouldn't risk living in Turkey nowadays or travelling all over. I would only feel safe now with a quick in and out to Antalya or Bodrum or one of the other seaside resort towns.
The magnificent Graeco-Roman, Christian, and other antiquities in Turkey! I am glad I got to see them at Hierapolis, Ephesus, Cappadocia, and so many places. It is sickening to think of them being destroyed by jihadi savages. Remember what they did to the Buddhist statuary? Recently. the destruction in Palmyra. Have the archeologists spoken out?
If white moderates deserve blame for their inaction against Jim Crow, then perhaps moderate Muslims today can be faulted for failing to combat a culture of jihad.
I would add, however, that while Jim Crow has been eliminated, the same cannot be said for the culture of jihad. I should think that this is an important difference. And I would delete the weak-kneed 'perhaps' from the apodosis of the above conditional.
What Case does in his article is expose the double standard involved when one seeks to explain the now-ended racial terror against blacks in the U. S. in terms of a racist culture but fails to explain the ongoing and increasing religious terror wreaked upon the West by Muslim terrorists in terms of a jihadi culture.
As I have said many a time, little would be left of the Left were its members made bereft of their double standards. There are so many of them I was forced to begin a separate category named, appropriately enough, Double Standards.
I have had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jasser speak twice, a few days ago right in my own neighborhood. He is an outstanding American and a Muslim, one who demonstrates that it is possible to be a moderate Muslim who accepts American values including the separation of church/mosque and state. I have reproduced, below the fold, a recent statement of his so that you may read it without the distraction of advertisements and 'eye candy.'
Jasser tells us that monitoring Muslims is not "Islamophobic." I agree heartily with what he is saying but not with how he says it. It is absolutely essential not to acquiesce in the Left's linguistic obfuscation. 'Islamophobic' and cognates are coinages designed by liberals and leftists to discredit conservatives and their views. By definition, a phobia is an irrational fear. But fear of radical Muslims and the carnage they spread is not irrational: it it is entirely reasonable and prudent. To label a person an 'Islamophobe' is therefore to imply that the person is mentally deranged or otherwise beneath consideration. It is to display a profound disrespect for one's interlocutor and his right to be addressed as a rational being. Here you have the explanation of why radical Muslims and their liberal-left enablers engage in this linguistic distortion. They aim to win at all costs and by all means, including the fabrication of question-begging and self-serving epithets.
A conservative must never talk like a liberal. To do so is thoughtless and foolish. For he who controls the terms of the debate controls the debate. When a conservative uses words like 'Islamophobic' and 'homophobic' he willy-nilly legitimizes verbal constructions meant to denigrate conservatives. Now how stupid is that?
What should Jasser have said? He could have said something like, "The monitoring of Muslims is reasonable and prudent in current circumstances and in no way wrongly discriminatory." Why is this preferrable? Because such monitoring obviouslydoes not express a phobia, an irrational fear of Muslims.
To understand liberals you must understand that theirs is a mind-set according to which a conservative is a bigot, one who reflexively and irrationally hates anyone different than he is. This is why conservatives who insist on securing the borders are routinely labelled 'xenophobes' by liberals and by some stupid 'conservatives' as well, an example being that foolish RINO Lindsey Graham who applied the epithet to Donald Trump when the latter quite reasonably proposed a moratorium on Muslim immigration into the U.S. Whatever you think of the proposal, and there are some reasonable arguments against it, it is not xenophobic.
There is also nothing xenophobic about border control since there are excellent reasons for it having to do with drug trafficking, public health, to mention just two. This is not to say that there aren't some xenophobes. It is true: there are a lot of bigots in the world and some of the worst call themselves 'liberals.'
Dr. Jasser is a man of great civil courage and an inspiration to me and plenty of others. If everyone were like him there would be no Muslim problem at all. One hopes and prays that no harm comes to him. Unfortunately, he is a member of a tiny minority, the minority of peaceful Muslims who respect Western values and denounce sharia, but also have the civil courage to stand up against the radicals.
To inform yourself further, see Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, A Battle for the Soul of Islam, Simon & Shuster, 2012.
Because of what Europe has become, it now has few viable choices in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism. Its dilemma is a warning to Americans that we should turn away from a similar path of national suicide.
[. . .]
Europe’s perfect storm is upon us. A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort. In the Middle East, the fundamentalists are growing in numbers, and they most certainly do believe that their own lives are nothing in comparison to the Phoenix-like resurrection of their Caliphate and the sensual pleasures in the hereafter that will reward their martial sacrifices in the here and now. Of all the many reasons why immigrants to Europe so often dislike their generous hosts, the simplest may be because they so easily can. Even H. G. Wells could not dream up any better harvest of Eloi by Morlocks, and it would take another St. Jerome (“All were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew. Who could believe this?”) to chronicle the Western tragedy. As a general rule, whatever Europe is now doing, we should do the opposite — for our very survival in an increasingly scary world.
Come on Victor, man up! Make a definite proposal. Say something plain and blunt. I understand: you are a highly esteemed historian and you are concerned with your professional standing and credibility. You enjoy the perquisites of your position among the established. But what is more important, your professional standing or the continuance of the great country and culture that made it possible for you to have a highly distinguished career and speak your mind freely?
How about this: Propose a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands. Or this: Urge people to vote for Trump if he should garner the Republican nomination.
Here. What's the big deal? These things happen. As compared to the number of traffic fatalities in Muslim lands over the last ten years the number of crucifixions is vanishingly small. You are statistically illiterate if you are worried about being crucified as opposed to dying in a traffic accident.
Anyone acquainted with history knows that it’s happened before. Once robust Roman and Christian North Africa, the birthplace of Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Sts. Cyprian and Augustine, Felicity and Perpetua, lacking a strong secular state after the fall of the Western Empire, disappeared under Muslim assault. Except for their moral and intellectual achievements, in today’s North Africa those great figures might as well never have existed.
Something similar is occurring all over the Middle East. It would be foolish to think it cannot also happen, in the longer run, in Europe or the Americas, especially given the West’s demographic collapse.
Obama often says that ISIS isn’t an “existential” threat. By that, he may mean that terrorists and their armies are, for now, too small to conquer or destroy us. But there are many ways to be destroyed – and one of them is by undermining those very “values” the president thinks are “right.” Sometimes the undermining comes, unintentionally, from the very people who think they are defending them.
In the 22 March 2016 attack in Brussels 34 people (31 victims and 3 perpetrators) were killed and 300 injured. Why should anyone care about this? In 2013 in Belgium alone there were 746 traffic-related fatalities. And in 2010 there were in Belgium 197 gun-related deaths. Surely it can't be rational to get excited over 34 dead as compared to the 746 dead or the 197 dead. People kill people. Things happen: things like nail bombings, highway crashes, and gun deaths.
My astute readers will of course detect something severely 'twisted' in the 'reasoning' I presented above. Horribile dictu, this is the way many leftists and some libertarians think! I shit you not. Shit happens.
Fourteen people were murdered in San Bernardino, and almost two dozen were injured, several critically. That is perfectly awful. Since September 11, 2001, I believe almost three score people have been killed in the United States in similar terrorist attacks, or so one television commentator asserted. The number sounds about right. During those same fourteen years, 120,000 Americans have been killed by guns (including those who killed themselves, just to be clear .) I cannot imagine any rational mode of discourse that treats the former number as somehow more important than the latter number. And yet, people who would pass most tests for sanity, if not intelligence, are eager to take dramatic steps to prevent another San Bernardino although they would not even consider equally vigorous steps to diminish, say by half, the number of deaths from firearms in the next fourteen years. [Emphasis added.]
If we're still driving cars despite thousands of automobile accident deaths per year, we don't really set the value of human life so high that attacks in Paris (130 victims) and San Bernardino (22 victims) objectively warrant the massive media attention, revolutions in foreign policy, and proposals to shut the borders completely to Muslims that they evoke. Such events get such attention because of statistical illiteracy.
Robert Reilly is too politic to refer to the Catholic bishops as fools, so I'll do it for him. Not all of them are fools, of course, but many if not most, and not just on the topic of Islam, but on other topics as well, such as capital punishment. Reilly's recent Catholic Thingpiece is essential reading if you care about hard truth as opposed to liberal-left feel-good pablum. I'll pull a few quotations.
. . . like most Americans, the bishops know almost nothing about Islam. Therefore, they don’t understand the context in which their Muslim interlocutors are speaking. As a result, they engage in mirror imaging, i.e., understanding the Muslims as the good bishops understand themselves. A big mistake.
San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy recently provided an example at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The Catholic News Service headlined the event: “Bishop challenges Catholics to combat ‘ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry.’” The bishop said Catholics must speak out against “distortions of Muslim theology and teaching on society and the state.”
What might these distortions be? Apparently, that we should view with repugnance the “repeated falsehoods” that Islam is inherently violent, that Muslims seek to supplant the U.S. Constitution with sharia law, and that Muslim immigration threatens “the cultural identity of the American people.”
Bishop McElroy’s dialogue partner for the evening was Sayyid Syeed, a leader of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), whose name was familiar to me because he has been a fixture in the Midwest Catholic-Muslim dialogues. Perhaps the bishop was unacquainted with the pedigree of ISNA, which was spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood, the premier world organization for the reestablishment of the caliphate – whose purpose is the establishment of sharia.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, also a frequent dialogue partner with the bishops and past president of ISNA, had this to say in the newspaper Pakistan Link: “We must not forget that Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.” In 2001, he wrote, “Once more people accept Islam, insha’allah, this will lead to the implementation of Sharia in all areas.”
[. . .]
While acknowledging the terrible situation of Christians in the Middle East, Bishop McElroy apparently praised Islam’s respect for “the peoples of the Book.” In this, he was eagerly seconded by his dialogue partner, Mr. Syeed, who, according to CNS, said that the first millennium was marked by positive relations between Christianity and Islam, but that all changed in the millennium that followed, which included the Crusades.
This is an interesting perspective on history.
By A.D. 650, Muslims ruled Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt – all of which had been Christian lands whose inhabitants were demoted to the subject status of dhimmis. Less than a century later, Islam had spread to North Africa and Spain – all within the first millennium of “positive relations.” In none of these places did Muslims arrive peacefully.
I suggest that the bishops put Bat Ye’or’s book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, on their reading list so they can speak accurately about Islam’s respect for “the peoples of the Book” in the first millennium and afterwards. From this history, is it unreasonable to consider that there is something “inherently violent” in Islam?
Mr. Syeed went on to say that, in the second millennium, “the two faiths divided the world into a ‘house of Islam’ and a ‘house of Christianity.’” Actually, the division was made well before that by Islam, which created the distinction between between the dar al-islam and dar al-harb, with the Christian world being described as the “house of war.”
But perhaps this distinction is superannuated? Somewhat around the time of Bishop McElroy’s speech, in a Friday sermon in Edmonton, Alberta, Imam Shaban Sherif Mady declared, “Look forward to it, because the Prophet Muhammad said that Rome would be conquered! It will be conquered. Constantinople was conquered. Rome is the Vatican, the very heart of the Christian state.”
Now who is misunderstanding Islam here, the imam or the bishop? (I leave out Mr. Syeed because he could hardly deny that Mohammed said this.)
In other words, the San Diego Peace Institute event provides a microcosm for what generally goes wrong in Catholic-Muslim dialogue as conducted by the bishops’ conferences. None of the many Muslim intellectual reformers with whom I have worked over the years has ever been invited to such a dialogue. For the most part, only Islamist organizations need apply.
In light of the Brussels attack and Obama's unbelievably lame 51 second response thereto, in which he once again refused properly to name the source of the carnage, the following re-posting of an entry from over a year ago is justified.
Imagine a history teacher who tells his students that in the American South, as late as the 1960s, certain citizens lynched certain other citizens. Would you say that the teacher had omitted something of great importance for understanding why these lynchings occurred? Yes you would. You would point out that the lynchings were of blacks by whites, and that a good part of the motivation for their unspeakable crimes was sheer racial animus. In the case of these crimes, the races of the perpetrators and of their victims are facts relevant to understanding the crimes. Just to describe the lynchings accurately one has to mention race, let alone to explain them.
I hope no one will disagree with me on this.
Or consider the case of a history teacher who reports that in Germany, 1933-1945, certain German citizens harassed, tortured, enslaved, and executed other German citizens. That is true, of course, but it leaves out the fact that the perpetrators were Nazis and (most of) the victims Jews. Those additional facts must be reported for the situation to be properly described, let alone explained. Not only that, the Nazis were acting from Nazi ideology and the Jew were killed for being Jews.
According to recent reports, some Muslim jihadis beheaded some Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach. Now beheading is not lynching. And religion is not the same as race. But just as race is relevant in the lynching case, religion is relevant in the beheading case. That the perpetrators of the beheadings were Muslims and the victims Christians enters into both an adequate description and an adequate explanation of the evil deeds of the former.
This is especially so since the Muslims were acting from Islamic beliefs and the Christians were killed for their Christian beliefs. It was not as if some merely nominal Muslims killed some merely nominal Christians in a dispute over the ownership of some donkeys.
Bear in mind my distinction between a 'sociological' X and a 'doctrinal' X. Suppose you were brought up Mormon in Idaho or Utah, but now reject the religion. Your being no longer doctrinally a Mormon is consistent with your remaining sociologically a Mormon.
What did Barack Obama say about the beheading? He said: “No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism."
Now that is a mendacious thing to say. Obama knows that the behavior of people is influenced by their beliefs. For example, he knows that part of the explanation of the lynchings of blacks by whites is that the white perpetrators held racists beliefs that justified (in their own minds) their horrendous behavior. And of course he knows, mutatis mutandis, the same about the beheading case.
He knows that he is engaging in a vicious abstraction when he sunders people and their beliefs in such a way as to imply that those beliefs have no influence on their actions.
Why then is Obama so dishonest? Part of the explanation is that he just does not care about truth. (This is a mark of the bullshitter as Harry Frankfurt has pointed out in his celebrated On Bullshit.) Truth, after all, is not a leftist value, except insofar as it can be invoked by leftists to forward their agenda. It is the 'progressive' agenda that counts, first, and the narrative that justifies the agenda, second. (Karl Marx, 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it.") Truth doesn't come into it since a narrative is just a story and a story needn't be true to mobilize people to implement an agenda.
There's more to it than that, but that's enough for now. This is a blog and brevity is the soul of blog as some wit once observed.
What is to be done? Well, every decent person must do what he or she can to combat the destructive liars of the Left. It is a noble fight, and may also be, shall we say, conducive unto your further existence in the style to which you have become accustomed.
Pope Benedict XVI touched on alleged “evil” in Islam very lightly in his famous 2006 lecture at Regensburg on the necessity of uniting reason and religion. He cited the example of a 14th century emperor’s view of Islam as irrationally violent and thus evil. This touched off a world-wide uproar and mayhem, concerning which then-Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, commented: “These statements will serve to destroy in twenty seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years.” He added that such statements “don’t reflect my own opinions.”
Yet another indication of Bergoglio's squishy, bien-pensant foolishness.
But what does he make of past and current reports of Islamic atrocities? The 2015 World Watch List found 4,344 Christians killed for faith-related reasons and 1,062 churches attacked. The 2016 list documents 7,106 killed and 2,425 churches attacked. There are literally thousands of cases of violence against Christians and destruction of churches in Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Africa, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Pope Francis is presumably well-informed about such events, but he comments in his Apostolic Address, The Joy of the Gospel, “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
I wonder if Francis thinks that every generalization is 'hateful' just in virtue of being a generalization. I hope not. Generalize we must. The fact that it is sometimes done poorly is no argument for not doing it at all. Wise up, liberals.
Note the presumptuousness of Francis in supposing that he knows what "authentic Islam" is and requires. He desperately wants to believe that Islam is a religion of peace and so he substitutes his fervent wish for the reality. He ought to study the subject just as he ought to study economics.
In taking this position, Francis, a faithful “son of the Church,” is echoing Vatican II. At the Council, Pope John XXIII, as part of his goal of “opening the windows of the Church,” wished the participants to reconsider the relationship of the Church to Judaism, avoiding theological and liturgical positions which had a history of contributing to anti-Semitism. There was no agenda at the outset for pronouncements about the relationship to Islam; but, as I mentioned in a previous column, some Fathers and theologians at the council, were anxious to include Islam in official documents related to “non-Christian religions.”
A significant factor behind this movement was the work of Louis Massignon (1883-1962), a Catholic scholar of Islam and a pioneer of Catholic-Muslim mutual understanding. Massignon taught that we need a “Copernican revolution” in our approach to understanding Islam. We have to place ourselves in the center of the Islamic mindset, understanding Islamic spirituality, and conduct dialogues from that vantage point.
During the Council, one of Massignon’s disciples, the Egyptian Dominican theologian, Georges Anawati (1905-1994), actively “lobbied,” in conjunction with other council members, for positive statements about Islam in official documents. This group succeeded: Nostra aetate and Lumen gentium contain laudatory statements about Islam: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems,” an Abrahamic monotheistic religion, submitting “without reserve to the hidden decrees of God,” and sharing much with Christianity in basic beliefs and moral teachings.
But in view of the hateful attitude toward other religions shown throughout Islamic scriptures, as well as the massive numbers of murders and church-burnings and persecutions we’ve seen for decades now, was such praise simply wishful thinking? Condemnations of obvious features of Islam are almost non-existent in today’s Church.
Pope Pius XI published Mit brennender Sorge, an open critique of the German Reich and Divini redemptoris against Communism. Pope Pius XII chose to work persistently, but undercover, during his papacy, to defeat Nazism and save Jews. What if he, too, had published a bold condemnation of Nazism?
During Vatican II, the Soviet Union was a global scourge, and Our Lady of Fatima in extraordinary appearances at the outset of the Communist revolution had even warned the Church about Russia “spreading her errors throughout the world.” But incredibly there was not a whiff of criticism of Communism from the Council. What would have happened if Paul VI had strongly condemned the USSR, Leninism, and Marxism? Is diplomatic caution essential in papal pronouncements? Or should we follow the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I’s motto, Fiat justitia, pereat mundus, “let justice be done, even if the world perishes”?
And with regard to Islam now, an outright papal condemnation of the religion, such as uttered by popes from past centuries, we can be sure, would result in massive disturbances throughout the world – perhaps World War III. And such a condemnation might unfairly tar the moderate Muslims along with the extremists. But short of condemnation, continuous eulogizing is out of place. And as to “the religion of peace,” it’s time to take into account the traditional Muslim interpretation of “peace.” The world is divided into two “houses” – the House of Peace (Dar Al-Salaam) and the House of War (Dar Al-Harb). Only Muslims are within that first “house.”
Muslims have been murdering Christians for a long time now. Liberals need to face reality for a change. Here is an example of how adherents of the 'religion of peace' treated some Armenian Christian girls:
In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.
A tip of the hat to Karl White for pointing us to this article which includes a critique of Francis Beckwith's contribution to the debate. Craig concludes:
So whether Muslims and Christians can be said to worship the same God is not the truly germane question. The question is which conception of God is true.
I would allow that the latter question is the more important of the two questions, but it is not the question most of us were discussing. In my various posts, I endeavored to remain neutral on the question of the truth of Christianity while pursuing the former question. See the first two related articles infra.
A neo-reactionary I was arguing with a while back claimed in effect that I have more in common with Muslims than I do with contemporary liberals. This entry will begin an exploration of this theme.
A reader the other day referred me to to Sayyid Qutb (Milestones p.120):
If the family is the basis of the society, the basis of the family is the division of labour between husband and wife, and the upbringing of children is the most important function of the family, then such a society is indeed civilized. In the Islamic system of life, this kind of a family provides the environment under which human values and morals develop and grow in the new generation; these values and morals cannot exist apart from the family unit. If, on the other hand, free sexual relationships and illegitimate children become the basis of a society, and if the relationship between man and woman is based on lust, passion and impulse, and the division of work is not based on family responsibility and natural gifts; if woman's role is merely to be attractive, sexy and flirtatious, and if the woman is freed from her basic responsibility of bringing up children; and if, on her own or under social demand, she prefers to become a hostess or a stewardess in a hotel or ship or air company, thus spending her ability for material productivity rather than in the training of human beings, because material production is considered to be more important, more valuable and more honourable than the development of human character, then such a civilization is 'backward' from the human point of view, or 'Jahili' in the Islamic terminology.
The emphases were added by my reader. He asks: "Is Qutb right or wrong? In which version of conservatism would this doctrine fit best?"
Five years ago, on 11 February 2011, unaware of the above passage, I wrote, in an entry occasioned by the death of Maria Schneider of "Last Tango in Paris" fame/imfamy:
Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, fanatical and anti-Enlightenment, but our trash culture is not much better. Suppose you are a Muslim and you look to the West. What do you see? Decadence. And an opportunity to bury the West.
If Muslims think that our decadent culture is what Western values are all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble. They do and we are.
Militant Islam's deadly hatred of us should not be discounted as the ravings of lunatics or psychologized away as a reflex of envy at our fabulous success, despite the obvious presence of lunacy and envy. For there is a kernel of insight in the ravings that we do well to heed. Sayyid Qutb , theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood, who visited the USA at the end of the '40s, writes in Milestones (1965):
Humanity today is living in a large brothel! One has only to glance at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars and broadcasting stations! Or observe its mad lust for naked flesh, provocative pictures, and sick, suggestive statements in literature, the arts, and mass media! And add to all this the system of usury which fuels man's voracity for money and engenders vile methods for its accumulation and investment, in addition to fraud, trickery, and blackmail dressed up in the garb of law.
A wild exaggeration in 1965, the above statement is much less of an exaggeration today. But setting aside the hyperbole, we are in several ways a sick and decadent society getting worse day by day. On this score, if on no other, we can learn something from our Islamist critics. The fact that a man wants to chop your head off does not mean that he has nothing to teach you. We often learn more from our enemies than from our friends. Our friends often will spare us hard truths.
Turning now to the topmost passage from Qutb, what should we say about it? Here are some points where this conservative agrees with Qutb and some points where he disagrees.
Points of Agreement
1. The family is the building block of a societal order that deserves to be called civilized. The central function of the family is the education and socialization of children. Human offspring need to be brought from the animal to the social level. This requires the cooperation of husband and wife, man and woman, and a division of labor reflecting the different natural abilities of men and women.
2. The transmission of life-enhancing values and the inculcation of morality must occur primarily at the family level, starting when children are very young. This is where the transmission and inculcation is most effectively achieved.
3. The effects of the 'sexual revolution' have been largely negative. The 'revolution' has not led on the whole to human liberations but rather to enslavement, to the destruction of families, and the degradation of the entire culture so much so that television and popular culture can be described, without too much exaggeration, as an open sewer.
4. The "training of human beings" and "the development of human character" are more important and more honorable than "material production."
Points of Disagreement
1. Qutb goes too far with his claim that the transmission of values and the inculcation of morality cannot occur apart from the family unit.
2. My main disagreement with Qutb is that he assigns women a social role which, while reflecting the natural strengths and abilities of women, is oppressive for many women in that it prevents them from developing as persons in the way men are allowed to develop themselves as persons and not merely as fathers. Clearly, many women have what it takes to become competent physicians, lawyers, engineers, university professors, etc. and among these women, some are better at their chosen fields than many men. This is not to say that women as a group are equal to men as a group with respect to ability in any of these fields; it is to say that women as a group should not be discriminated against on the basis of sex. The same goes for voting. While women as a group are too much influenced by their emotions and thus not as well-suited as men to make wise choices at the polling places, the franchise is overall good and it is just wrong to deny women a political say on the basis of their sex.
Of course, in some areas women should be discriminated against on the basis of sex. If you say that all combat roles in the military should be open to women, then I say you are a p.c.-whipped, crazy leftist. The fact that a handful of amazons could overpower a Navy SEAL cuts no ice.
So this makes me a paleoconservative who yet takes on board the best of the classically liberal tradition while avoiding the latter-day lunacies of contemporary liberalism as well as the extremism of the neo-reactionary paleocons. My reader asked: In which version of conservatism does Qutb's doctrine best fit? Answer: that of the neo-reactionary paleocons.
I expect to be, and have been, attacked from both sides. This is something a maverick philosopher should take pride in. The maverick philosopher navigates by the Polaris of Truth Herself, avoiding extremes, and shunning herds.
Barack Obama suffers from serious case of the real Islamophobia -- fear of telling the truth about Islam. Even though a "progressive," he says nary a word about the rampant misogyny and homophobia in Islam or about Sharia law whose medieval strictures are preferred by 51% of American Muslims. Nor does he seem to care that so few of these same American Muslims actively oppose radical Islam. The president prefers the Hamas-linked CAIR to courageous reformers like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. But that's no surprise. For Obama, radical Islam doesn't even exist.
Not a pretty sight: the representatives of a superior culture abasing themselves before the representatives of an inferior one.
Decadent Europe may already be lost. But we still have time to learn.
Do you think Italy might contain a few cultural treasures worth preserving? Then you may want to inform yourself of the fact that Muslims are not known for their preservation of antiquities. See The Destruction of the Middle East for starters.
There is a deep paradox here that would require a lot of writing to set forth properly. Roughly, it is the very superiority of our culture with its philosophy, science, free speech, open inquiry, toleration of dissent, freedom of religion, and the whole panoply of Enlightenment values together with the advanced technology and prosperity that they make possible that has led and is leading us into decadence. Our superiority is thus breeding inferiority so that we become easy marks for an inferior culture that believes in itself and its benighted values and is, insofar forth, superior to us in its will to dominate us by any and all methods.
UPDATE (2/1): Malcolm Pollack (HT: Bill Keezer) writes:
I meant to comment on this when it happened a few days ago:
In further concession to Iranian president, official dinner with Italian PM does not include wine on the menu
What a craven, flabby, neutered thing our civilization has become. This is what ACID syndrome does to its victims: it sickens and enervates them with doubt; it destroys and disables their confidence, potency, and virility; it paralyzes them in the face of peril; it turns their bones and sinews to jelly.
In contrast: Winston Churchill, who was to host a dinner attended by ibn Saud, was told by the Arabian king that those attending must not drink or smoke in his presence. His response?
I said that if it was his religion that made him say such things, my religion prescribed as an absolute sacred ritual smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after and if need be during, all meals and the intervals between them. Complete surrender.
The Dead Smokers' Society hereby registers its opposition to this anti-tobacco Islamo-wackery. Carpe fumam!
Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II, states that the Mohammedans “profess their faith as the faith of Abraham, and with us they worship the one, merciful God who will judge men on the last day” (par 16). At first sight, that statement appears friendly and matter-of-fact; the “faith” of Muslims is evidently thought to be the same “with us”. We “agree” about a last judgment and a merciful God who is one. This mutual understanding apparently comes from Abraham. This way of putting the issue argues to a common origin of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each of which “appeared” in history at different times—the New Testament some twelve hundred years after Abraham and Islam some seven hundred years after the time of Christ.
[. . .]
In the West, Islam refers to the religion preached in Arabia by Mohammed beginning in the seventh century. But the Muslims themselves consider their religion to be much older than Mohammed. Indeed, it is said to go directly to Allah, passing through nothing, not even the interpretation of Mohammed. In this sense, Mohammed was in no sense an “author” of the Qur’an as the evangelists were said to be “authors” of their respective Gospels, or as the prophet Samuel was said to be the author of the Books of Samuel.
[. . .]
The Qur’an also relativizes the Old and New Testaments as faulty documents that have stolen or mis-interpreted the original Qur’an text properly located in the mind of Allah. The most obvious comment on this understanding is that the opposite is what happened. The Qur’an was itself a selection and interpretation from earlier Jewish and Christian sources. When this became obvious, a theory developed of a prior revelation in the mind of Allah that was only later spoken through Mohammed. This view became the device to save Islam from incoherence.
This is relevant to the question whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Some seem to think that the common Abrahamic origin of Christianity and Islam shows that one and the same God is worshiped, albeit in different ways, by the two religions. But this is not the Muslim understanding of things given that they hold that the Old and New Testaments are based on theft and misinterpretation of the original Qu'ranic texts in the mind of God . The common origin for Muslims is in the eternal, pre-existent Qu'ran with Judaism and Christianity being falsifications.
It is not as if God progressively reveals himself in Judaism, Christinaity, and Islam. For Muslims, the Qur'an pre-exists eternally in the mind of Allah. Muhammad merely takes dictation. The eternal Word of God is not a person but a book -- in Arabic, no less. God does not freely reveal himself to man as in Judaism and Christinaity: the divine revelation is already there in final form in the mind of God.
These considerations seem to put considerable stress on the notion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Grandmaster Larry Evans, in his column "Evans on Chess" (Chess Life, September 2005, pp. 46-47), reproduces a letter from an anonymous high school science teacher from Northwest Louisiana. It seems that this fellow introduced his students to chess and that they responded enthusiastically. The administration, however, issued a policy forbidding all board games. In justification of this idiocy, one of the PC-heads argued that in chess there are definite winners and losers whereas educators need to see that everyone succeeds.
Please note that it is bad preparation for a world in which there are definite winners and losers to ban games in which there are definite winners and losers.
GM Evans points out that this lunacy has surfaced elsewhere. "In 1998, for example, Oak Mountain Intermediate School in Shelby County, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham) banned chess (because it is too competitive!) but had two baseball stadiums with night-lights for evening play." (CL p. 47)
One of the things that liberals have a hard time understanding is that competition is good. It breeds excellence. Another thing that is not understood is that competition is consistent with cooperation. They are not mutually exclusive. We cannot compete without cooperating within a broad context of shared assumptions and values. Competition need not be inimical to cooperation. 'Competition is good' is a normative claim. But competition is also a fact of life, one not likely to disappear. A school that bans competitive activities cannot be said to be preparing students for extramural reality.
Competition not only breeds excellence, it breeds humility. When you compete you become better, but you also come to know your limits. You come to learn that life is hierarchical. Competition puts you in your place.
Part of the problem is that liberals and leftists (is there any difference nowadays?) make a fetish of equality. Now I'm all for equality of opportunity, equality before the law, treating like cases in a like manner, and all the rest of what may be subsumed under the broad rubric of formal or procedural equality. I am opposed to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and creed. I want people judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. (And precisely for that reason I judge your typical rapper and your typical race hustler to be a contemptible lout.)
But as a matter of fact, people are not equal materially viewed, and making them equal is not a value. In fact, it involves injustice. It is unjust to give the same grade to a student who masters algebra and to a student who barely understands it. People differ in ability, and they differ in application. Some make use of their abilities, some let them lie fallow. That is their free choice. If a person makes use of his abilities and prospers, then he is entitled to the outcome, and it is unjust to deny it to him. I don't deserve my intelligence, but I am entitled to what I gain from its legitimate use. Or is that a difficult distinction to understand?
There will never be equality of outcome, and it is fallacious to argue as many liberals do that inequality of outcome proves inequality of opportunity. Thus one cannot validly infer
1. There is no equality of opportunity from 2. There is no equality of outcome except in the presence of some such false assumption as 3. People are equal in their abilities and in their desire to use them.
People are not equal in their abilities and they are not equal in their desire to use them. That is a fact. Liberals will not accept this fact because it conflicts with their ideology. When they look at the world, they do not see it as it is, but as they want it to be.
Suppose the true God is the triune God. Then two possibilities. One is that Muslims worship the true God, but not as triune, indeed as non-triune; they worship the true God all right, the same one the Christians worship; it is just that the Muslims have one or more false beliefs about the true God. The other possibility is that Muslims do not worship the true God; they worship a nonexistent God, an idol. We are assuming the truth of monotheism: there is a God, but only one.
Now worship entails reference in the following sense: Necessarily, if I worship the true God, then I successfully refer to the true God. (The converse does not hold). So either (A) the (normative) Muslim successfully refers to the true God under one or more false descriptions, or else (B) he does not successfully refer to the true God at all.
Now which is it, (A) or (B)?
The answer depends on your theory of reference.
Consider this 'Kripkean' scenario. God presents himself to Abraham in person. All of Abraham's experiences on this marvellous occasion are veridical. Abraham 'baptizes God' with the name Yahweh or YHWH. The same name (though in different transliterations and translations) is passed on to people who use it with the intention of preserving the direct reference the name got when Abraham first baptized God with it. The name passes down eventually to Christians and Muslims. Of course the conceptions of God are different for Abraham, St. Paul, and Muhammad. To mention one striking difference: for Paul God became man in Jesus of Nazareth; not so for Muhammad, for whom such a thing is impossible.
If you accept a broadly Millian-Kripkean theory of reference, then it is reasonable to hold that (A) is true. For if the reference of 'God' is determined by an initial baptism or tagging and a causal chain of name transmission, then the reference of 'God' will remain the same even under rather wild variation in the concept of God. The Christian concept includes triunity; the Muslim conception excludes it. That is a radical difference in the conceptions. And yet this radical difference is consistent with sameness of referent. This is because the reference is not routed though the conception: it is not determined by the conception. The reference is determined by the initial tagging and the subsequent name transmission.
Now consider a 'Fressellian' scenario. The meaning of a proper name is not exhausted by its reference. Names are more than Millian tags. It is not just that proper names have senses: they have reference-determining senses. On a descriptivist or 'Fressellian' semantics, a thoughtful tokening by a person P of a proper name N successfully refers to an individual x just in case there exists an x such that x uniquely satisfies the definite descriptions associated with N by P and the members of his linguistic community.
So when a Christian assertively utters a token of 'God is almighty,' his use of 'God' successfully refers to God only if there is something that satisfies the sense the Christian qua Christian associates with 'God.' Now that sense must include being triune. The same goes for the Muslim except that the sense that must be satisfied for the Muslim reference to be successful must include being non-triune.
It should now be clear that, despite the considerable overlap in the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God, they cannot be referring to the same being on the 'Fressellian' theory of reference. For on this theory, sense determines reference, and no one thing can satisfy two senses one of which includes while the other excludes being triune. So we have to conclude, given the assumption of monotheism, that the Christian and Muslim do not refer to one and the same God. Given that the true God is triune, the Christian succeeds in referring to the true God while the Muslim fails. The Muslim does not succeed in referring to anything.
So I continue to maintain that whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God depends on one's theory of reference. This is why the question has no easy answer.
Those who simple-mindedly insist that Christians and Muslims worship numerically the same God are uncritically presupposing a dubious Millian-Kripkean theory of reference.
Exercise for the reader: explain what is wrong with Juan Cole's article below.
The monastery, called Dair Mar Elia, is named for the Assyrian Christian monk — St. Elijah — who built it between 582 and 590 A.C. It was a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast's Chaldean Catholic community.
In 1743, tragedy struck when as many as 150 monks who refused to convert to Islam were massacred under orders of a Persian general, and the monastery was damaged. For the next two centuries it remained a place of pilgrimage, even after it was incorporated into an Iraqi military training base and later a U.S. base.
But of course, Islam is the religion of peace and no true Muslim would have been involved in such destruction.
She says that it is too important to be left to philosophers. She is right that the debate is important and has practical consequences, although I don't think any of the philosophers who have 'piped up' recently (Beckwith, Tuggy, Feser, Rea, Vallicella, et al.) want to take the debate merely as a point of entry into technical questions about reference and identity.
One of the points McGrew makes is one I have repeatedly made as well, namely, that the sorts of examples proffered by Francis Beckwith, Dale Tuggy, and Edward Feser beg the question. If the question is whether Christians and Muslims worship and refer to the same God, one cannot just assume that they do and then take one's task to be one of explaining how it is possible. Of course it is possible to refer to one and the same thing under different descriptions. But how does that show that in the case before us there is one and the same thing?
Another point that McGrew makes that I have also made is that one cannot show that the Christian and Muslim God are the same because their respective conceptions significantly overlap. No doubt they do: for both religions there is exactly one God, transcendent of his creation, who is himself uncreated, etc. But the overlap is insufficient to show numerical identity because of the highly important differences. Could one reasonably claim that classical theists and Spinozists worship the same God? I don't think so. The difference in attributes is too great. The reasonable thing to say is that if classical theism is true, then Spinozists worship a nonexistent God. Similarly, the difference between a triune God who entered the material realm to share our life and misery for our salvation and a non-triune God whose radical transcendence renders Incarnation impossible is such a huge difference that it is reasonable to take it as showing that the Christian and Muslim Gods cannot be the same.
McGrew and I also agree in rejecting what I will call the 'symmetry argument': since Jews and Christian worship the same God, the Christians and Muslims also worship the same God. It doesn't follow. Roughly, the Christian revelation does not contradict the Jewish revelation on the matter of the Trinity, since the Jews took no stand on this question before the time of Jesus. The Christian revelation supplements the Jewish revelation. The Islamic 'revelation,' however, contradicts the Christian one by explicitly specifying that God cannot be triune and must be disincarnate.
McGrew is certainly right that the 'same God' question ". . . can’t be decided by a flick of the philosophical wrist." And this needed to be said. Where I may be differing from her, though, is that on my view a really satisfactory resolution of the questions cannot be achieved unless and until we achieve real clarity about the underlying questions about reference, identity, existence, property-possession, and so on. It is highly unlikely, however, that these questions will ever be answered to the satisfaction of all competent practioners.
Where does this leave the ordinary Christian believer? Should he accept the same God thesis? It is not clear to me that he needs to take any position on it at all. But if he feels the need to take a stand, I say to him that he can rest assured that his non-acceptance of it is rationally justifiable.
If we're still driving cars despite thousands of automobile accident deaths per year, we don't really set the value of human life so high that attacks in Paris (130 victims) and San Bernardino (22 victims) objectively warrant the massive media attention, revolutions in foreign policy, and proposals to shut the borders completely to Muslims that they evoke. Such events get such attention because of statistical illiteracy.
A truism is a truth that is obviously true. The above, however, is not true at all, let alone obviously true. It is obviously idiotic.
The Caplan/Smith argument is that because the number of auto-related deaths is much greater than terror-related deaths so far, a high level of concern about terrorism is not objectively warranted.
But this sort of reasoning involves vicious abstraction. It is highly unreasonable to consider merely the numbers on both sides while abstracting from the motives of the terrorists and the societal impact of terrorism. With very few exceptions, drivers do not intend to kill anyone, and when their actions bring about deaths, those deaths involve only themselves and a few others.
Suppose a drunk driver unintentionally causes the death of himself and a family of five. Total deaths = 6. Other people will be affected, of course, but not many. (The wife and children of the drunk driver will now have less income to get by on, etc.) The effects are confined to a small circle of acquaintances and the effects are not additive in the way that the effects of terror events are additive.
One cannot reasonably abstract from the political agenda of terrorists and the effects even a few terrorist events have on an entire society. Ask yourself: has your life changed at all since 9/11? It most certainly has if you travel by air whether domestically or internationally. And even if you don't. Terrorists don't have to kill large numbers to attain their political goal and wreak large-scale disruption. The Tsarnaev attack on the Boston Marathon shut down the city for a few days. Same with Paris, San Bernardino, Madrid, London, etc. That had all sorts of repercussions economic and psychological.
And if you care about civil liberties, then you should take the terror threat seriously and do your bit to combat it. For the more terror, the more government surveillance and the more infringement of civil liberties.
There is also the obvious point that jihadis would kill millions if they could. Would they use nukes against the West if they could? Of course they would. And that would change the raw numbers!
UPDATE 1/15. Today's Wall Street Journal, B1, reports that travel to Paris plunged in the wake of the November terror attacks. International flight bookings to Paris were down by 78% from Italy, 64% from Spain, 62% from other, 54% from the U.S., 51% from China, 48% from the U. K., 48% from Germany, and 41% from Canada. This for the period from 14 November to 15 December, 2105, as compared to a year earlier.
And yet only 130 were killed in the recent Parisian terror attacks. What this shows is that terrorists do not have to kill large numbers of people to have a huge effect on the world economy and on the quality of life everywhere. The fact that the people who stayed away vastly overestimated the danger to themselves is irrelevant.
Within this scheme, where to locate Islam? For Christians and Jews alike, the difficulty—and the embarrassment—lie in the indisputable fact that Islam believes in one God, eternal, almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, merciful. Is not this formula, which I have adapted from the Christian credo, continuous with the words spoken by the Lord when He passed before Moses on Mount Sinai at the second giving of the Ten Commandments? Yes. But those same Ten Commandments open by identifying God as the liberator of His people in a particular historical situation: “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” In the God of the Qur’an, there is no such history.
Nor is that the only problem that presents itself if one tries to approach Islam as a revealed religion, at least as Christians and Jews understand the term. The Christian Church believes that it is the desire of the revealed God to manifest Himself and communicate His message of redemption, letting man know of the truths that elude the grasp of the human mind unaided by grace. To the revelation contained in the Hebrew Bible, the Christians added a “new testament,” while continuing to recognize the full authority of the document given before the arrival of their messiah.
Muslims also hold that they received a revelation. It is conceived, however, not as part of a historical narrative but as the transmission of an eternally preexisting text. In this transmission, the prophet, Muhammad, does not play a role akin to that of Moses and Jesus. He does nothing but receive texts, which he repeats as if under dictation. As opposed to the Bible, which Christians declare to have been “inspired,” the Qur’an is uncreated. It is the uncreated Word of God.
[. . .]
Thus, for a Christian as for a Jew, there can be no continuity between the Bible and the Qur’an. The point holds even for those passages reflecting an evident concurrence on the idea of the one God. Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and even more so to the Christian conception of God, is “Father”—i.e., a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relation with men. The one God of the Qur’an, the God Who demands submission, is a distant God; to call him “Father” would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege. The Muslim God is utterly impassive; to ascribe loving feelings to Him would be suspect.
Are Muslims, then, like Jews and Christians, “children of Abraham”? The Abraham whom Islam claims for itself is yet another messenger—and a Muslim. He is not the common father first of Israel and then of Christians who share his faith. Indeed, since the truth, according to the Qur’an, was given totally on the first day and to the first man, it is inconceivable that Abraham could have played the founding role assigned to him by Jews and Christians. Rather, the Ibrahim of the Qur’an takes part in Muslim worship by building the Ka’ba temple and instituting the pilgrimage to Mecca. Far from Muhammad sharing the faith of Abraham, it is Abraham who holds the faith of Muhammad.
[. . .]
Much fun has been made, wrongly, of the Muslim notion of paradise. Admittedly, it is not like the Jewish or Christian notion, which envisions an eternity participating in the life of the divine. In the other-world of Islam, God remains separate and inaccessible, but man finds there forgiveness, peace, “satisfaction.” If biblical religion suggests a road map that originates in a garden, Eden, and finishes in a city, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Qur’an charts a return to the garden. Ancient mythologies are replete with similar images: idealized banquets with flowing cups, beautiful virgins and young men, a climate of heavenly satiety in which all desire is fulfilled.
In concordance with natural religion (and with the Hellenistic substratum on which Islam was built), Muslim religious life offers more than one model of piety. For the truly devout, two ways are open, just as in the Greco-Roman world: philosophy (Arab falsafa, itself heavily impregnated with neo-Platonism) and mysticism. Less rigorous souls, with the help of the law and moderate observance of the “five pillars” of Islam, can adhere to a mild but perfectly sufficient religious regimen. This is surely a great advantage over the two biblical religions, which expect of believers a greater scrupulousness and a deeper introspection; it is also, once more, reminiscent of ancient paganism, whose rites were designed to ornament and to enhance the individual’s natural, spontaneous sense of the divine.
From this perspective, two facts about Islam that always astonished medieval Christians seem not so astonishing after all: the difficulty of converting Muslims, and the stubborn attachment to their faith of even the most superficially observant. From the Muslim point of view, it was absurd to become a Christian, because Christianity was a religion of the past whose best parts had been included in and superseded by Islam. Even more basically, Christianity was anti-natural: just as Manuel’s Muslim debater insisted, its moral requirements exceeded human capacities, and its central mysteries defied reason.
[. . .]
Of all the contemporary expressions hinting at a consanguinity between the Qur’an and the Bible, the falsest may be “religions of the Book.” This phrase is itself of Islamic origin, but it has nothing to do with what it is widely and misleadingly supposed to suggest. It refers, rather, to a special legal category, “people of the Book,” that provided an exception for Christians and Jews to the general rule decreeing death or slavery for those who refused to convert to Islam. Instead, these groups (as well as two other peoples in possession of a scripture, namely Sabians and Zoroastrians) were allowed to retain their property and to continue to reside in Muslim lands with the second-class status of dhimmi.
That such expressions can be so lightly employed is a sign that elements of the Christian world are no longer capable of distinguishing clearly between their own religion and Islam. Are we returning to the times of John of Damascus, when it was possible to entertain the deluded thought that Islam might itself be a form of Christianity? It is not inconceivable. History records more than one instance of a Christian church unconsciously drifting toward Islam when it does not know any longer what it believes in, or why. This was precisely the fate of the Monophysites in Egypt, the Nestorians in Syria, the Donatists in North Africa, the Arians in Spain.
Islam is not some primitive, simplistic, unworked-out religion. It is neither a “religion of camel drivers” nor a religion of soft and malleable borders. To the contrary, it is an extremely strong religion, with a specific and highly crystallized conception of the relation between man and God. That conception is no less coherent than the Jewish and Christian conceptions; but it is quite opposed to them. Although some Christians may imagine that, because Muslims worship the common God of Israel, Islam and Christianity are closer than either is to paganism, this is not the case. In fact, Christianity and Islam are paradoxically but radically separated by the same God.
It follows that the effort to engage in “dialogue” with Muslims has been set on a mistaken course. The early Church fathers deemed the works of Virgil and Plato a preparatio evangelica—preparation for the Gospel, for the truth of Christianity. The Qur’an is neither a preparation for biblical religion nor a retroactive endorsement of it. In approaching Muslims, self-respecting Christians and others would do better to rely on what remains within Islam of natural religion—and of religious virtue—and to take into account the common humanity that Muslims share with all people everywhere.
Francis Beckwith mentions the Kalam Cosmological Argument in his latest The Catholic Thing article (7 January 2106):
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
Suppose that a Muslim and Christian come to believe that God exists on the basis of this Kalam argument and such ancillary philosophical arguments and considerations as are necessary to establish that the cause of the universe is uncreated, transcendent of the universe, unchanging, etc. The result is a conception of God achieved by reason without the aid of divine revelation. It is a conception common to the normative Muslim and the normative Christian. Crucial differences emerge when the core conception is fleshed out in competing ways by the competing (putative) revelations. But if we stick with the core philosophical conception, then all should agree that there is important overlap as between the Christian and Muslim God conceptions. The overlap is achieved by abstraction from the differences.
So far so good.
Beckwith then asks whether the Muslim and the Christian "believe in the same God" and he concludes that they do.
Permit me a quibble. 'Believe in' connotes 'trust in, have faith in, rely upon the utterances of,' and so on. I believe in my wife: I trust her, I am convinced of her fidelity. That goes well beyond believing that she exists. If I believe in a person, it follows that I believe that the person exists. But if I believe that a person exists, it does not follow that I believe in the person. Professor Beckwith is of course aware of this distinction.
At best, then, what the Christian and the Muslim are brought to by the Kalam argument and supplementary considerations is not belief in God, but belief that God exists. To be even more precise, the Kalam argument, at best, brings us to the belief that there exists a unique, transcendent, uncreated (etc.) cause of the beginning of the universe. In other words, both Christian and Muslim are brought to the belief and perhaps even the knowledge that a certain definite description is satisfied. The properties mentioned in this description are what constitute the shared philosophical understanding of 'God' by the Muslim and the Christian. At best, philosophy brings us to knowledge of God by description, not a knowledge by acquaintance. The common description is usefully thought of as a 'job description' inasmuch as God in brought in to do a certain explanatory job, that of explaining the beginning of the universe. As my teacher J. N. Findlay once said, "God has his uses."
But note that this common Christian-Muslim description leaves undetermined many properties an existent God must possess. (And it must be so given the finitude of our discursive, ectypal, intellects.) But in reality, outside the mind and outside language, God, like everything else, is completely determinate, or complete, for short. I am assuming the following existence entails completeness principle of general metaphysics (metaphysica generalis).
EX -->COMP: Necessarily, for any existent x, and for any non-intentional property P, either x instantiates P or x instantiates the complement of P.
What the principle states is that every real item, everything that exists, satisfies the property version of the Law of Excluded Middle. It rules out of reality incomplete objects. For example, God in reality is either triune or non-triune. He cannot be neither, any more than I can be neither a blogger nor not a blogger. The definite description(s) by means of which we have knowledge by description of God, however, are NECESSARILY (due to the finitude of our intellects) such that there are properties of God in reality that these descriptions do not mention. This is of course true of knowledge by description of everything. Everything is such that no description manageable by a finite mind makes mention of all of the thing's properties, intrinsic and relational.
Now suppose that Christianity is true and that God in reality is triune. Then the above common definite description is satisfied. The common Muslim-Christian conception is instantiated -- but it is instantiated by the Christian God which of course must exist to instantiate it.
The Christian and the Muslim both believe that God (understood as the unique uncreated creator of the universe) exists. That is: they believe that the common conception of God is instantiated, that the common definite description is satisfied. They furthermore believe that the common conception is uniquely instantiated and that the common description is uniquely satisfied. But they differ as to whether the instantiator/satisfier is the triune God or the non-triune God.
So we can answer our question as follows. The question, recall, is: Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?
Muslims and Christians believe in the same God, as Beckwith claims, in the following precise sense: they believe that the same God exists, which is to say: they believe that the common philosophical God concept is uniquely instantiated, instantiated by exactly one being. Call this the anemic sense of believing in the same God.
But this is consistent with saying that Muslim and Christian do not believe in the same God in the following precise sense: they don't believe that the wholly determinate being in reality that instantiates the common philosophical God concept is the triune God who sent his only begotten Son, etc. Call this the robust sense of believing in the same God.
Now we robustos will naturally go with the robust sense. So, to give a plain answer: Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. If Christianity is true, the Muslim God simply does not exist, and Muslims believe in an idol.
The mistake that some are making here is to suppose that the shared Muslim-Christian philosophical understanding enscapsulated in the common concept suffices to show that in reality one and the same God is believed in, and successfully referred to, and non-idolatrously worshipped by both Muslims and Christians. Not so!
The real (extramental, extralinguistic) existence of God cannot be identified with or reduced to the being instantiated of a concept that includes only some of the divine determinations (properties). 'Is instantiated' is a second-level predicate, but God exists in the first-level way. Equivalently, God is not identical to an instance of one of our concepts. God is transcendent of all our concepts. So if we know by revelation that God is a Trinity, then we know that the Muslim God, the non-triune God, does not exist.
"Popular exams in UK to be rescheduled to avoid Ramadan." The UK commits cultural suicide. Not all at once, but little by little, bit by bit, concession by concession. A culture is doomed when it no longer has the will to defend itself. (HT: London Karl)
In the West, Muslims are accommodated. In Muslim lands, Christians are persecuted and suppressed even unto beheading and crucifixion. And Barack Hussein Obama worries about global warming and the National Rifle Association? By the way, his presidency is a clear indicator of our decline: that a feckless fool, a know-nothing, could be elected and then re-elected. We may just be getting what we deserve. A foolish folk, fiscally irresponsible, addicted to panem et circenses, gets a POMO idiot who works to increase the dependency of the people on government while violating their liberties and undermining the rule of law.
Meanwhile, conservative inaction gives traction to the likes of Donald Trump.
. . . you said, "I'm not a magician." ISIS militants behead two magicians. And Obama the feckless fiddles while the world burns.
In other news, 1000 Muslim youths went on a New Year's Eve rape rampage in Cologne against women 80 of whom reported rapes and muggings. But the BBC doesn't call the assailants Muslims. This news agency should rename itself the PCBBC.
So far, Ed Feser's is perhaps the best of the Internet discussions of this hot-button question, a question recently re-ignited by the Wheaton dust-up, to mix some metaphors. Herewith, some notes on Feser's long entry. I am not nearly as philosophically self-confident as Ed or Lydia McGrew, so I will mainly just be trying to understand the issue for my own edification. But I am sure of one thing: the question is difficult and has no easy solution. If you think it does, then I humbly suggest you are not thinking very hard, indeed, you are hardly thinking.
1. Feser rightly points out that a difference in (Fregean) sense does not entail a difference in (Fregean) reference. So the difference in sense as between 'God of the Christians' and 'God of the Muslims' does not entail that these expressions differ in reference. Quite so. But I would add that on a descriptivist semantics reference is routed through, and determined by, sense: an expression picks out its object in virtue of the latter's unique satisfaction of an identifying description associated with the referring expression, a description that unpacks the expression's sense. If we think of reference in this way, then 'God' refers to whichever entity, if any, that satisfies the definite description encapsulated in 'God' as this term is used in a given linguistic community. So while difference in sense does not by itself entail difference in reference, difference in sense is consistent with difference in reference, so that in a particular case it may be that the difference in sense is sufficiently great to entail a difference in reference. Suppose that in one linguistic community a person understands by 'God' the unique contingent being who created the universe but was himself created, while in another a person understands by 'God' the unique necessary uncreated being who created the universe. In this case I think it is clear that the difference in sense entails a difference in reference. Both uses of 'God' may fail of reference, or one might succeed. But they cannot both succeed. For nothing can be both necessary and contingent.
From what has been said so far, 'God' (used by a Christian) and 'Allah' (used by a Muslim) may have the same reference or may have a different reference. The issue cannot be decided by merely pointing out that a difference in sense does not entail a difference in reference.
2. Feser makes a point about beliefs that is surely correct. You and I can have conflicting beliefs about a common object of successful reference without prejudice to its being precisely a common object of successful reference. For example, we both see a sharp-dressed man across the room drinking from a Martini glass. Suppose I erroneously believe that he is drinking a Martini while you correctly believe that he is drinking water. That difference in belief is obviously consistent with one and the same man's being our common object of perceptual and linguistic reference. "Similarly, the fact that Muslims have what Christians regard as a number of erroneous beliefs about God does not by itself entail that Muslims and Christians are not referring to the same thing when they use the expression 'God.'" (Emphasis added.)
True, but it could also be that conflicting beliefs make it impossible that there be a common object of successful reference. It will depend on what those beliefs are and whether they are incorporated into the respective senses of 'God' as used by Muslims and Christians. I will also depend on one's theory of reference, whether descriptivist, causal, hybrid, or something else.
It should also be observed that in perceptual cases such as the Martini case there is no question but that we are referentially glomming onto one and the same object. The existence and identity of the sharp-dressed drinker are given to the senses. Since we know by direct sensory acquaintance that it is the same man both of us see, the conflicting beliefs have no tendency to show otherwise. But God is not an object of perception via the outer senses. So one can question how much weight we should assign to the perceptual analogies, and indeed to any analogy that makes mention of a physical thing. At best, these analogies show that, in general, contradictory beliefs about a putatively self-same x are consistent with there being in reality one and the same subject of these beliefs. But they are also consistent with there not being in reality one and the same subject of the contradictory beliefs.
But not only is God not an object of sensory acquaintance, he is also arguably not an object among objects or a being among beings. Suppose God is ipsum esse subsistens as Aquinas held. It will then be serious question whether a theory of reference that caters to ordinary references to intramundane people and things, beings, can be extended to accommodate reference to self-subsistent Being. Not clear! But I raise this hairy issue only to set it aside for the space of this entry. I will assume for now that God is a being among beings. I bring this issue up only to get people to appreciate how difficult and involved this 'same God?' issue is. Do not comment on this paragraph; it is off-topic for present purposes. See here for one of the posts in which I disagree with Dale Tuggy on this issue.
3. Now consider these conflicting beliefs: God is triune; God is not triune. Please note that it would be question-begging to announce that the fact of this dispute entails that the object of the dispute is one and the same. For that is exactly what is at issue. The following would be a question-begging little speech:
Look man, we are disputing whether God is triune or not triune; we are therefore presupposing that there is one and the same thing, God, about whose properties we are disputing! The disagreement entails sameness of object! Same God!
This is question-begging because it may be that the tokens of 'God' in "God is triune; God is not triune" differ in sense so radically that they also differ in reference. In other words, the mere fact that one and the same word-type 'God' is tokened twice does not show that there is one and the same object about whose properties we are disputing.
4. Feser writes,
Even errors concerning God’s Trinitarian nature are not per se sufficient to prevent successful reference. Abraham and Moses were not Trinitarians, but no Christian can deny that they referred to, and worshiped, the same God Christians do.
[. . .]
But shouldn’t a Christian hold that some reference to the Trinity or to the divinity of Jesus is also at least necessary, even if not sufficient, for successful reference to the true God? Doesn’t that follow from the fact that being Trinitarian is, from a Christian point of view, also essential to God? No, that doesn’t follow at all, and any Christian who says otherwise will, if he stops and thinks carefully about it, see that he doesn’t really believe that it follows. Again, Christians don’t deny that Abraham and Moses, or modern Jews, or Arians and other heretics, refer to and worship the same God as orthodox Christians, despite the fact that these people do not affirm the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus.
There is a modal fudge across these two passages that I don't think it is mere pedantry on my part to point out. In the first passage Feser claims in effect that
A. No Christian CAN deny that Abraham and Moses worshiped the same God that Christians do
while in the second Feser claims in effect that
B. No Christian DOES deny that Abraham and Moses worshiped the same God that Christians do.
If we charitably substitute 'hardly any' for 'no' in (B) then we get a statement that I am willing to concede is true. (A), however, strikes me as false. I myself am strongly tempted to deny that Jews and Christians worship the same God -- assuming that the Jewish God is non-triune and explicitly determined to be such by Jews -- and what I am strongly tempted to do strikes me as entirely possible and rationally justifiable. Why can't someone reasonably deny that Jews and Christians worship the same God?
Feser thinks he has cited some incontrovertible fact that decides the issue, the fact being that everyone or almost everyone claims that Jews and Christians worship the same God. I concede the fact. What I don't concede is that it decides the issue. My claim against Feser on the present occasion is not that he is wrong to maintain that (normative) Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, but that he is not obviously right, his confident asseverations in the passages lately quoted notwithstanding. I am saying to Feser what I said to Beckwith and Tuggy: you gentlemen think this issue easily resolved. But it isn't, in large part because its resolution depends on the solution of hitherto unsolved problems in the philosophy of language.
Here are two questions we ought to distinguish:
Q1. Do Christians use 'God' and equivalents with the intention of referring to the same being that Jews refer to or think they are referring to with 'God' and equivalents?
Q2. Do Christians and Jews succeed in refer to the same being?
An affirmative answer to the first question is consistent with a negative answer to the second question. I agree with an affirmative answer to (Q1). But this affirmative answer does not entail an affirmative answer to (Q2). Moreover, it is reasonable to return a negative answer to (Q2). I will now try to explain how it is reasonable to answer (Q2) in the negative.
5. The crux of the matter is the nature of reference. How exactly is successful reference achieved? And what exactly is reference? And how is worship related to reference?
First off,the causal theory of Kripke, Donnellan, et al. is reasonably rejected and I reject it . It is rife with difficulties. (See e.g., John Searle, Intentionality, Cambridge UP, 1983, ch. 9) Connected with this is my subscription to the broadly logical primacy of the intentional over the linguistic. Part of what this means is that words don't refer, people refer using words, and they don't need to use words to refer. All reference, at bottom, is thinking reference or mental reference. Reference at bottom is intentionality. To refer to something, then, whether with words or without words, is to intend it or think of it. This is to be understood as implying that words, phrases, and the like, considered in their physical being as marks on paper or sounds in the air or carvings in stone (etc.) are entirely lacking in any intrinsic referential, representative, semantic, or intentional character. They are not intrinsically object-directed. There is no object-directedness in nature apart from mind. (Though it may be that dispositionality is an analog of it. See here.) This is equivalent to saying that there is no objective reference without mind. A word acquires reference only when it is thoughtfully used.
Reference to particulars in the sense of 'refer' just explained is always and indeed necessarily reference to propertied particulars. This is because reference to a particular 'picks it out' from all else, singles it out, designates it to the exclusion of everything else. Particulars taken in abstraction from their properties cannot be singled out to the exclusion of all else. To think of a thing or person is to think of it as an instance of certain properties and indeed in such a way as to distinguish it from all else. So, to think of, and thus refer to, a particular is to think of it as an instance of a set of properties that jointly individuate it.
To refer to God, then, is to think of God as an instance of certain properties. I cannot think of God directly as just a particular, and then as instantiating certain properties. This ought to be quite clear from the fact that in this life our (natural) knowledge of God is not by acquaintance but by description. I don't literally see God when I look upwards at "the starry skies above me" or gaze inward at "the moral law within me" to borrow a couple of signature phrases from Immanuel Kant. Our only access to God here below is indirect via his properties, as an instance of those properties. Here below we approach God from the side of his properties as we understand them. The existence and identity of my table is known directly by acquaintance. Not so in the case of God. The existence of God is not given to sense perception but has to be understood as the being-instantiated of certain properties. The God I know by description is God qua uniquely satisfying my understanding of 'God.'
Someone could object: What about mystical experience? Is it not possible in this life to enjoy mystical knowledge by acquaintance of God? This is a very large, and I think separate topic. To the extent that mystical experience leads to mystical union it tends to collapse the I-Thou and man-God duality that is part of the framework of worship as we are discussing it in this context. See my Buber on Buddhism and Other Forms of Mysticism. It also tends to explode the framework in which questions about reference are posed . I mean the framework in which: here is a minded organism with linguistic capacity who thoughtfully utters certain words and phrases while out there are various things to which the organism is trying to refer and often succeeding.
There is also the question of the veridicality of mystical experience. How do I know that an experience of mine is revelatory of something real? How do I know that successive experiences of mine are revelatory of the same thing? How do I know that the mystical experiences of different people are veridically of the same thing? So I suggest we bracket the question of mystical experience.
Any natural knowledge of God in this life, then, is by description. Reference to God is indirect and via the understanding of 'God' within a given religion. Now the orthodox Christian understanding of 'God' is that God sent his only begotten Son, begotten not made, into our predicament to teach us and show us the Way (via, veritas, vita) and to suffer and die for our sins. Together with this contingent Sending goes the triunity of God as the necessary condition of its possibility. This is part of what an orthodox Christian means by 'God,' although I reckon few Christians would put it the way I just did. It is part of the sense of 'God' for an orthodox Christian. But this is not part of the sense of 'God' for the orthodox Muslim who denies the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the soteriology connected with both.
So do Christians and Muslims succeed in referring to the same being? No. Successful reference on a descriptivist semantics requires the cooperation of Mind and World. Successful reference, whether with words or without words, requires that there exist outside the mind something that satisfies the conditions set within the mind. (Remember: it is not primarily words that refer, but minds via words and mental states.) Now suppose there exists exactly one God and that that God is a Trinity. Then the Christian's understanding of 'God' will be satisfied, and his reference to God will be successful. But the Muslim's reference will fail. The reason for this is that there is nothing outside the mind that satisfies his characteristic understanding of 'God.'
Of course, the Muslim could put it the other way around. Either way, my point goes through: Muslim and Christian cannot be referring to the one and the same God.
You say the Christian and Muslim understandings of 'God' overlap? You are right! But this overlap is but an abstraction insufficient to determine an identifying reference to a concrete, wholly determinate, particular. In reality, God is completely determinate. As such, he cannot be neither triune nor not triune, neither incarnated nor not incarnated, etc. in the way the overlapping conception is. So if the triune God exists, then the non-triune God does not exist. Of course, we can say that the Christian and the Muslim are 'driving in the same direction.' Heading West on Interstate 10, I am driving toward the greater Los Angeles area, and thus I am driving toward both Watts and Laguna Niguel. But there is a big difference, and perhaps one pertaining unto my 'salvation,' whether I arrive in Watts or in Laguna Niguel. What's more, I cannot terminate my drive in some indeterminate location. The successful termination of my peregrination must occur at some wholly definite place. So too with successful reference to a concrete particular: it must terminate with a completely determinate referent.
Here is another related objection. "If the Christian God exists, then both Christian and Muslim succeed in referring to the same God -- it is just that this same God is the Christian God, i.e., God as understood in the characteristically Christian way. The existence of the Christian God suffices to satisfy the common Christian-Muslim underdstanding of 'God.'"
In reply I repeat that both mind and world must cooperate for successful reference on a descriptivist semantics. So it is not enough that God exists and that there be exactly one God. Nor is it enough that the one God satisfy the common Christian-Muslim conception; for the Muslim God to be an object of successful reference it must both exist and satisfy the characteristic Muslim understanding of 'God.'
My thesis is a rather modest one. To repeat what I said above:
My claim against Feser on the present occasion is not that he is wrong to maintain that (normative) Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, but that he is not obviously right, his confident asseverations in the passages lately quoted notwithstanding. I am saying to Feser what I said to Beckwith and Tuggy: you gentlemen think this issue easily resolved. But it isn't, in large part because its resolution depends on the solution of hitherto unsolved problems in the philosophy of language.
What is theologically wrong with asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, according to Hawkins’s opponents — and mine? Muslims deny the Trinity and incarnation, and, therefore, the Christian God and Muslim God cannot be the same. But the conclusion doesn’t square. And Christians, though historically not friendly to either Judaism or the Jews, have rightly resisted that line of thinking when it comes to the God of Israel.
The important question is this: Is someone who denies that the Christian and Muslim Gods are the same logically committed to denying that the Christian and Jewish Gods are the same? Volf seems to think so. To the extent that an argument can be attributed to Volf it seems to be this:
A. There are good reasons to deny that the Christian and Muslim Gods are the same if and only if there are good reasons to deny that the Jewish and Christian Gods are the same.
B. There are no good reasons to deny that the Jewish and Christian Gods are the same.
C. There are no good reasons to deny that the Christian and Muslims Gods are the same.
I think one can reasonably reject (A). Volf writes,
For centuries, a great many Orthodox Jews have strenuously objected to those same Christian convictions: Christians are idolaters because they worship a human being, Jesus Christ, and Christians are polytheists because they worship “Father, Son and the Spirit” rather than the one true God of Israel.
It is arguable however that these great many Orthodox Jews have misrepresented the Christian convictions. Christians do not worship a mere human being; they worship a being that is both human and divine. So the charge of idolatry is easily turned aside. And Christians are not polytheists since they explicitly maintain that there is exactly one God, albeit in three divine persons. Trinitarianism is not tri-theism.
A Christian could say this: The God of the ancient Jews and the God of the Christians is the same God; it is just that his attributes were more fully revealed in the Christian revelation. The Christian revelation augments and supersedes the Jewish revelation without contradicting it. Or did Jews before Christianity arose explicitly maintain that God could not be triune? Did they address this question explicitly? And did they explicitly maintain that Incarnation as Christians understand it is impossible? (These are not rhetorical questions; I am really asking!) Suppose the answers are No and No. Then one could argue that the Christian revelation fills in the Jewish revelation without contradicting it and that the two putatively distinct Gods are the same. My knowledge of an object can be enriched over time without prejudice to its remaining numerically one and the same object.
Analogy: the more Dale Tuggy 'reveals' about himself, the fuller my knowledge of him becomes. Time was when I didn't know which state he hails from. At that time he was to my mind indeterminate with respect to the property of being from Texas: he was to my mind neither from Texas nor not from Texas. I simply had no belief about his native state. But now I know he is from Texas. There was no real change in him in this respect; there was a doxastic change in me. My knowledge of the man was enriched due to his 'self-revelation.'
Now why couldn't it be like that with respect to the O.T. God and the N.T. God? We know him better now because we know him through Jesus Christ, but he is numerically the same One as we knew before.
It is different with Islam. It is arguably a Christian heresy that explicitly denies Trinity and Incarnation which (from the Christian point of view) are attributes God has revealed to us. Islam takes a backward step. Arguably, Islam's God does not exist since it is determined explicitly to be non-triune and non-incarnated. The God of the O. T. was not explicitly determined to be non-triune and non-incarnated; so there is no difficulty with the O.T. God being identical to the N. T. God. But what if Jews now claim, or even before the Christ event claimed, that their God is non-triune and non-incarnated? Then their God does not exist. This seems like a reasonable line for a Christian to take. It involves no bigotry whatsoever.
Of course, these issues are exceedingly difficult and one cannot reasonably expect to reach any agreement on them among learned and sincere truth-seekers. I am not being dogmatic above. As before, I am urging caution and rejecting simple-minded solutions. Volf's simple-mindedness and sloppy journalism gets us nowhere. And his accusations of bigotry are deeply offensive and themselves an expression of politically correct bigotry.
Francis Beckwith and Dale Tuggy, two philosophers I respect, answer in the affirmative in recent articles. While neither are obviously wrong, neither are obviously right either, and neither seem to appreciate the depth and difficulty of the question. In all fairness, though, the two articles in question were written for popular consumption.
Beckwith begins with an obvious point: from a difference in names one cannot validly infer a difference in nominata. 'Muhammad Ali' and 'Cassius Clay,' though different names, refer to the same person. The same goes for 'George Orwell' and 'Eric Blair.' They refer to the same writer. So from the difference of 'Yahweh' and 'Allah' one cannot infer that Yahweh and Allah are numerically different Gods. Similarly, with 'God' and 'Allah.' Difference in names is consistent with sameness of referent. But difference in names is also consistent with difference of referents, a point that Beckwith does not make. 'Trump' and 'Obama' are different names and they refer to different people. 'Trump' and 'Zeus' are different names but only one of them refers, which implies that they do not have the same referent. It may be that 'God' and 'Allah' are like 'Trump' and 'Zeus' or like 'Trump' and 'Pegasus.'
Another obvious point Beckwith makes is that if some people have true beliefs about x, and other people have false beliefs about x, it does not follow that there is no one x that these people have true and false beliefs about. Suppose Sam believes (falsely) that Karl Marx is a Russian while Dave believes (truly) that he is a German. That is consistent with there being one and same philosopher that they have beliefs about and are referring to. Now suppose God is triune. Then (normative) Christians have the true belief that God is triune while (normative) Muslims have the false belief that God is not triune. This seems consistent with there being one God about whom they have different beliefs but to whom they both refer and worship. But it is also consistent with a difference in referent. It could be that when a Christian uses 'God' he refers to something while a Muslim refers to nothing when he uses 'Allah.'
Of course, both Christian and Muslim intend to refer to something real with their uses of 'God' and 'Allah.' But the question is whether they both succeed in referring to something real and whether that thing is the same thing. It could be that one succeeds while the other fails. And it could be that both succeed but succeed in referring to different items.
Consider God and Zeus. Will you say that the Christian and the ancient Greek polytheist worship the same God except that the Greek has false beliefs about their common object of worship, believing as he does that Zeus is a superman who lives on a mountain top, literally hurls thunderbolts, etc.? Or will you say that there is no one God that they worship, that the Christian worships a being that exists while the Greek worships a nonexistent object? And if you say the latter, why not also say the same about God and Allah, namely, that there is no one being that they both worship, that the Christian worships the true God, the God that really exists, whereas Muslims worship a God that does not exist?
And then there is the God of the orthodox Christian and the Deus sive Natura of Spinoza. Would it make sense to say that the orthodox Christian and the Spinozist worship the same God? Would it make sense for the orthodox Christian to give this little speech:
We and the Spinozists worship the same God, the one and only God, but we have different beliefs about this same God. We Christians believe (truly) that God is a transcendent being who could exist without having created anything, whereas Spinozists believe (falsely) that God is immanent and could not have existed without having created anything. Still and all, we and the Spinozists are referring to and worshiping exactly the same God.
Are the Christians and the Spinozists referring to one and the same being and differing merely about its attributes? I say No! The conceptions of deity are so radically different that there cannot be one and the same item to which they both refer when they say 'God' or Deus. (Deus is Latin for 'God.')
This is blindingly obvious in the case of the orthodox Christian versus the Feuerbachian. They both talk and write about God. Do they refer to one and same being with 'God' or 'Gott' and differ merely on his attributes? This is impossible. For the Feuerbachian, God is an unconsciously projected anthropomorphic projection. For the orthodox Christian, God is no such thing: he exists in reality beyond all human thoughts, desires, projections. It's the other way around: Man is a theomorphic projection. The characteristic Feuerbachian thesis, although it appears by its surface structure to be a predication ascribing a property to God, namely, the property of being an unconsciously projected anthropomorphic projection, is really a negative existential proposition equivalent to 'God does not exist.' Compare: 'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional item.' Is this at logical bottom a predication? Pace Meinong, it is not: in its depth structure it is a negative existential equivalent to 'Sherlock Holmes does not exist.' To be precise, it entails the latter. For it also conveys that the character Holmes figures in an extant piece of fiction which of course does exist.
To sum up the main point: there are concepts so radically different that they cannot be concepts of one and the same thing. Some people say that thoughts, i.e., acts or episodes of thinking, are brain states. Others object: "Thoughts are intentional or object-directed, whereas no physical state is object-directed; hence, no thought is a brain state." This is equivalent to maintaining that the concept intentional state and the concept physical state cannot be instantiated by one and the same item. So it cannot be the case that the mind-brain identity theorist and I are referring to the same item when I refer to my occurrent desiring of a double espresso.
Christians and Muslims disagree about whether God has a Son, right? Then, they’re talking about the same (alleged) being. They may disagree about “who God is” in the sense of what he’s done, what attributes he has, how many “Persons” are in him, and whether Muhammad was really his Messenger, etc. But disagreement assumes one subject-matter – here, one god.
I think Tuggy is making a mistake here. Surely disagreement about the properties of a putatively self-same x does not entail that there is in reality one and the same x under discussion, although it is logically consistent with it.
A dispute between me and Ed Feser, say, about whether our mutual acquaintance Tuggy has a son no doubt presupposes, and thus entails, that there is one and the same man whom we are talking about. It would be absurd to maintain that there are two Tuggys, my Tuggy and Ed's where mine has a son and Ed's does not. It would be absurd for me to say, "I'm talking about the true Tuggy while you, Ed, are talking about a different Tuggy, one that doesn't exist. You are referencing, if not worshipping, a false Tuggy." Why is this absurd? Because we are both acquainted with the man ('in the flesh,' by sense-perception) and we are arguing merely over the properties of the one and the same man with whom we are both acquainted. There is simply no question but that he exists and that we are both referring to him. The dispute concerns his attributes.
But of course the situation is different with God. We are not acquainted with God: God, unlike Tuggy, is not given to the senses. Mystical intuition and revelation aside, we are thrown back upon our concepts of God. And so it may be that the dispute over whether God is triune or not is not a dispute that presupposes that there is one subject-matter, but rather a dispute over whether the Christian concept of God (which includes the sub-concept triune) is instantiated or whether the Muslim concept (which does not include the subconcept triune) is instantiated. Note that they cannot both be instantiated by the same item similarly as the concept object-directed state and the concept physical state cannot be instantiated by one and the same item such as my desiring an espresso.
The point I am making against both Beckwith and Tuggy is that it is not at all obvious which of the following views is correct:
V1: Christian and Muslim can worship the same God, even though one of them must have a false belief about God, whether it be the belief that God is unitarian or the belief that God is trinitarian.
V2: Christian and Muslim must worship different Gods precisely because they have mutually exclusive conceptions of God. So it is not that one of them has a false belief about the one God they both worship; it is rather that one of them does not worship the true God at all.
There is no easy way to decide rationally between these two views. We have to delve into the philosophy of language and ask how reference is achieved. How do linguistic expressions attach or apply to extralinguistic entities? How do words grab onto the (extralinguistic) world? In particular, how do nominal expressions work? What makes my utterance of 'Socrates' denote Socrates rather than someone or something else? What makes my use of 'God' (i) have a referent at all and (ii) have the precise referent it has?
It is reasonable to hold, with Frege, Russell, Searle, and many others, that reference is routed through, and determined by, sense: an expression picks out its object in virtue of the latter's unique satisfaction of a description associated with the referring expression, a description that unpacks the expression's sense. If we think of reference in this way, then 'God' refers to whatever entity, if any, that satisfies the definite description encapsulated in 'God' as this term is used in a given linguistic community.
Given that God is not an actual or possible object of (sense) experience, this seems like a reasonable approach to take. The idea is that 'God' is a definite description in disguise so that 'God' refers to whichever entity satisfies the description associated with 'God.' The reference relation is then one of satisfaction. A grammatically singular term t refers to x if and only if x exists and x satisfies the description associated with t. Now consider two candidate definite descriptions, the first corresponding to the Muslim conception, the second corresponding to the Christian.
D1: 'the unique x such that x is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, created the world ex nihilo and is unitarian'
D2: 'the unique x such that x is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, created the world ex nihilo, and is triune.'
Suppose that reference is not direct, but routed through sense, or mediated by a description, in the manner explained above. It is easy to see that no one entity can satisfy both (D1) and (D2). For while the descriptions overlap, nothing can be both unitarian and triune. So if reference is routed through sense, then Christian and Muslim cannot be referring to the same being. Indeed, one of them is not succeeding in referring at all. For if God is triune, nothing in reality answers to the Muslim's conception of God. And if God is unitarian, then nothing in reality answers to the Christian conception.
And so, contrary to what Miroslav Volf maintains, the four points of commonality in the Christian and Muslim conceptions do NOT "establish the claim that in their worship of God, Muslims and Christians refer to the same object." (Allah: A Christian Response, HarperCollins 2011, p. 110.) The four points are:
a. There is exactly one God. b. God is the creator of everything distinct from himself. c. God is transcendent: he is radically different from everything distinct from himself. d. God is good.
For if reference to God is mediated by a conception which includes the subconcept triune or else the subconcept unitarian, then the reference cannot be to the same entity. And this despite the conceptual overlap represented by (a)-(d).
A mundane example (adapted from Saul Kripke) will make this more clear. Sally sees a handsome man at a party standing in the corner drinking a clear bubbly liquid from a cocktail glass. She turns to her companion Nancy and says, "The man standing in the corner drinking champagne is handsome!" Suppose the man is not drinking champagne, but mineral water instead. Has Sally succeeded in referring to the man or not?
Argumentative Nancy, who knows that no alcohol is being served at the party, and who also finds the man handsome, says, "You are not referring to anything: there is no man in the corner drinking champagne. The man is drinking mineral water or some other bubbly clear beverage. Nothing satisfies your definite description. There is no one man we both admire. Your handsome man does not exist, but mine does."
Now in this example what we would intuitively say is that Sally did succeed in referring to someone using a definite description even though the object she succeeded in referring to does not satisfy the description. Intuitively, we would say that Sally simply has a false belief about the object to which she is successfully referring, and that Sally and Nancy are referring to and admiring the very same man.
But note how this case differs from the God case. Both women see the man in the corner. But God is not an object of possible (sense) experience. We don't see God in this life. Hence the reference of 'God' cannot be nailed down perceptually. A burning bush is an object of possible sense experience, and God may manifest himself in a burning bush; but God is not a burning bush, and the referent of 'God' cannot be a burning bush. The man in the corner that the women sees and admire is not a manifestation of a man, but a man himself.
Given that God is not literally seen or otherwise sense-perceived in this life, then, apart from mystical experience and revelation, the only way to get at God is via concepts and descriptions. And so it seems that in the God case what we succeed in referring to is whatever satisfies the definite description that unpacks our conception of God.
My tentative conclusion, then, is that (i) if we accept a description theory of names, the Christian and Muslim do not refer to the same being when they use 'God' or 'Allah' and (ii) that a description theory of names is what we must invoke given the non-perceivability of God. Christian and Muslim do not refer to the same being because no one being can satisfy both (D1) and (D2) above: nothing can be both triune and not triune any more than one man can both be drinking champagne and not drinking champagne at the same time.
If, on the other hand, 'God' is a logically proper name whose reference is direct and not routed through sense or mediated by a definite description, then what would make 'God' or a particular use of 'God' refer to God? If names are Millian tags, we surely cannot 'tag' God in the way I could tag a stray cat with the name 'Mungo.'
One might propose a causal theory of names.
The causal theory of names of Saul Kripke et al. requires that there be an initial baptism of the target of reference, a baptism at which the name is first introduced. This can come about by ostension: Pointing to a newly acquired kitten, I bestow upon it the moniker, 'Mungojerrie.' Or it can come about by the use of a reference-fixing definite description: Let 'Neptune' denote the celestial object responsible for the perturbation of the orbit of Uranus. In the second case, it may be that the object whose name is being introduced is not itself present at the baptismal ceremony. What is present, or observable, are certain effects of the object hypothesized. (See Saul Kripke Naming and Necessity, Harvard 1980 p. 79, n. 33 and p. 96, n. 42.)
As I understand it, a necessary condition for successful reference on the causal theory is that a speaker's use of a name be causally connected (either directly or indirectly via a causal chain) with the object referred to. We can refer to objects only if we stand in some causal relation to them (direct or indirect). So my use of 'God' refers to God not because there is something that satisfies the definite description or Searlean disjunction of definite descriptions that unpack the sense of 'God' as I use the term, but because my use of 'God' can be traced back though a long causal chain to an initial baptism, as it were, of God by, say, Moses on Mt. Sinai.
A particular use of a name is presumably caused by an earlier use. But eventually there must be an initial use. Imagine Moses on Mt. Sinai. He has a profound mystical experience of a being who conveys to his mind such exogenic locutions as "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have false gods before me." Moses applies 'God' or 'YHWH' to the being he believes is addressing him in the experience. But what makes the name the name of the being? One may say: the being or an effect of the being is simply labelled or tagged with the name in an initial 'baptism.'
But a certain indeterminacy seems to creep in if we think of the semantic relation of referring as explicable in terms of tagging and causation (as opposed to in terms of the non-causal relation of satisfaction of a definite description encapsulated in a grammatically proper name). For is it the (mystical) experience of God that causes the use of 'God'? Or is it God himself who causes the use of 'God'? If the former, then 'God' refers to an experience had by Moses and not to God. Surely God is not an experience. But if God is the cause of Moses' use of 'God,' then the mystical experience must be veridical. (Cf. Richard M. Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God, Cambridge UP, 1991, p. 11.)
So if we set aside mystical experience and the question of its veridicality, it seems we ought to adopt a description theory of the divine names with the consequences mentioned in (i) above. If, on the other hand, a causal theory of divine names names is tenable, and if the causal chain extends from Moses down to Christians and (later) to Muslims, then a case could be made that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all referring to the same God when they use 'God' and such equivalents as 'Yahweh' and 'Allah.'
So it looks like there is no easy answer to the title question. It depends on the resolution of intricate questions in the philosophy of language.