Response to: Which is Worse? Islam v. Christianity

A couple months ago Robert Karp asked this question. I initially meant this as a comment to that post, but it developed into something bigger, so a blog post makes more sense.

For the most part, Christianity has gotten past its bronze age stage. There are still pockets of severe repression, but not so much anymore. People make a lot of prayer in the classroom, commandments on church lawns, and "In God We Trust," but these things are nothing compared to what was going on a few hundred years ago.

Islam, on the other hand, largely has not moved forward. As you say, it is mostly contained to "third world" countries, which is true, but of late a lot of those folks have taken it upon themselves to emigrate to and challenge the customs of the 1st world countries.  The exception to the last sentence is the American born children of these people (or ones mostly raised here). They seem to have settled the clash between their religion and Western culture.

What would be dangerous to our society is if those backward ideas take hold. People say it can't happen here, but already in some European countries there are whole areas where it's simply not safe to travel if you're indoctrinated in the Western way. The most immediate problem is that of insular communities; those which might have an ultra fundamentalist Muslim majority, where police and other secular authorities are subservient to powerful clerics.

This actually already happens in communities with ultra fundamentalist Christian or Jewish orthodox majorities. It just doesn't get talked about much because they tend to keep to themselves. As far as I'm aware, there are no ultra fundamentalist Muslim majority communities as of yet (or Muslim majority of any level of piety for that matter), so whether or not they'd do the same thing remains to be seen.

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Comment by Mabel on January 15, 2012 at 12:37pm

Edit:  Islam is worse because it's radical factions are far more barbaric and larger than radical factions in Christianity.

Comment by Seasidechap on January 15, 2012 at 12:59pm
In the UK, there are places in some of the larger cities where this form of Islamic enclave is appearing. The city where I grew up alway had a large Muslim and Hindu presence, located in a number of suburbs. Over the past 20 years they have polarised, with specific areas of the city being Muslim or Hindu.

What's happened I that the younger, more radical Muslims have started to have an active effect on their communities. There have been cases, for instance, of billboards images of women being spray painted over to cover them up. You also notice the prevalence of women in hijabs.

So communities within communities are occuing. Not just he UK, either. Have seen this in Paris.
Comment by Conrad van Rooyen on January 15, 2012 at 1:59pm

i would have to say that islam is worse.  my reasoning being that if you offend a xstian in a debate, they may stomp off annoyed, leaving you standing there with a smirk on your face, yet expecting no further retaliation.  however, insulting a muslim in a debate is akin to cursing his mother with the fleas of a 1000 camels, and leaves you having to look over your shoulder in case there has been a 'fatwa' called on your ass...

Comment by Artor on January 15, 2012 at 2:10pm

I'll argue against Conrad above on one point; where are you talking about? I've discussed my atheism with Muslims here in the US before and had polite, informative conversations. I've heard on the news about Xtian mobs in Africa lynching people for being gay, or for practicing "sorcery." I think the problem is that Muslim-dominated areas tend to be poorer, less-developed nations. This leads to more ignorance & superstition among the followers, and hence more barbaric behavior. The foundations of all the Abrahamic religions are essentially the same. It's the particular cultural overlays that make them more or less insane.

Comment by Albert Bakker on January 15, 2012 at 3:14pm

t depends per country Artor. Muslim immigrants in the US tend to be decently educated (higher than US average at least) and further deviate from the average US citizen in having a higher income, this is a-typical for most EU countries.

This has to do with immigration policies in the past. The plan was in the late sixties and seventies to import cheap (unschooled) labor nobody wanted to do, and policy was to actually actively keep them from integrating, measures ware taken to keep them segregated, isolated, learning the language was discouraged (the need taken away by translating whatever was deemed needed) and so forth, because the plan was to kick them out when no longer useful. 

Currently, at least in the Netherlands but I suspect other EU countries as well, maybe not all in equal measure, next generations Muslims tend to become more secular, contrary to popular opinion, and be higher educated, especially the girls/ women. This is not to say all problems will automatically go away, but the need for pissing your pants because of the imminent founding of a Caliphate is dissipating. And this is not to say that people will stop doing that.

Comment by Michael Merritt on January 15, 2012 at 6:19pm

Huh, that's odd.  I hadn't actually published this post yet, so I'm not sure why it was published.  As a clarification, I was writing from a U.S. perspective.

Mabel: I think you're right. There's always time for a resurgence of large-scale radicalism in the other religions, but that's not how it is right now.

Seasidechap: Are these first-generation immigrants? I.E. People not born or largely raised in those countries?

Bob Spencer: Witch burnings/stoning/drowning, conservative dress for women, women as property subservient to the husband, the inquisition, social pressure to be part of a church, forced denunciation of science or doom of burning at the stake, religious crusades, banning of contraception, banning of a gay lifestyle, negative attitudes toward sexual freedom, capital punishment for adultery.

All things which have either gone away or are quickly going away. And almost all things which still exist in Islamic societies. So, yes, I'd say Christianity has come a long way. No apologetics, just reality. Is there still a long way to go? Yes. Are there still pockets where these things still exist? Sure. But progress has been made. Not so much is Islam (in the majority of the world).

Conrad/Artor/Albert: I think, in general, Muslims emigrating to the U.S. probably are less radical. And second-generation Muslims have a high chance of adopting a more secular outlook. But there is still the risk of insular communities being created. And just being born here doesn't mean you'll become integrated. We know there have been radicals acting here before (e.g. Anwar al-Awlaki, Nidal Malik Hasan, who were born here). But I think the situation is better in the U.S. than in most other places, with exceptions for second-generation Muslims, as Albert says (with some exceptions).

wyocowboy: Yep, and it doesn't help when things are so contradictory in the text itself that people are not sure what to believe.

Comment by Atheist Exile on January 16, 2012 at 4:19am

“There once was a time when all people believed in God and the church ruled. This time was called the Dark Ages.” ~Richard Lederer

With the advent of the Gutenberg printing press, the writing was on the wall. People became more literate and informed. The Bible became more accessible to people; as were Martin Luther's writings, including The Ninety-Five Theses (which marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation).

The Roman Catholic Church's iron grip on power was forever broken and continues to decline.

Although Christianity has enjoyed reforms and has been "watered down" by a proliferation of denominations, the same can not be said for Islam. Islamic fundamentalism has experienced ups and downs and currently appears to be as "up" as ever -- if not more so. It appears that Mid East oil money, particularly from Saudi Arabia, has helped to spread the decidedly fundamentalist Hanbali (Salafi and Wahhabi) school of Sunni Islam.

It seems to me that modern radical Islam was greatly boosted by the success of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and that the world has yet to recover.

The "Arab Spring" makes me hopeful but also discourages me when I see that the Muslim Brotherhood garnered the majority of votes in Egypt after their revolution. I like to think that the virtues of democracy must prevail over the doctrines of Islam but I could be indulging a pipe dream.

So, bottom line: I think I agree with you (Michael Merritt). Modern Islam is definitely more worrisome than modern Christianity.

Comment by Seasidechap on January 16, 2012 at 6:03am

> Seasidechap: Are these first-generation immigrants? I.E. People not born or largely raised in those countries?

Actually, the majority tend to be third generation. The UK had a large influx of migrants in the 50's, with many coming from India, Pakistan, etc. Their children grew up over here during the 60's and 70's - my peers at school. As a child growing up in a major city with a large Hindu and Muslim community, I can't really recall any major inter-faith tension.

It's the children of my peers, those in their 20's & 30's etc who seem to be the most active and militant. Their parents integrated into the community but it's the current generation who seem bent on breaking away and creating an individual, religion based identity.

Comment by Barry Eckert on January 16, 2012 at 8:23am

Islam was founded in the 7th century, or about 1400 years ago. Christianity was founded in the first century, and when it was around 1400 years old, we saw such lovely developments as the Inquisition and the Crusades. So, Islam is right on schedule in its demonstration of just how barbaric it can be. Maybe there's something about the 14 century mark that makes a religion go totally insane.

Islam and Christianity are equally evil in a long-term view. Christianity is past its peak, and in decline, I hope. What Christians call moral decay is actually Christianity becoming (slightly) more civilized. Islam has a long way to go yet before Muslim societies become equally jaded about their religion; the worst may be yet to come, in fact.

Comment by Barry Eckert on January 16, 2012 at 8:26am

Incidentally, I hope for the people of the 34th century that Scientology has been long eradicated. A Scientologist crusade/jihad would be very ugly indeed.


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