Prompted to write on “Muslim-Christian relations” for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section, Jason Pitzl-Waters changed the terms of the usual interfaith conversation and “spoke truth to power,” thus:
These events are the sad fruits of mixing raw social and political power with religions that operate on a exclusionary, one-true-path, basis. What you see in Iraq or Egypt is just the extreme and violent form of a sickness that has haunted history since the now-dominant monotheisms rose to prominence and power [emphasis added].
He then linked to his piece on Facebook and at his Wild Hunt blog.
Right away some concern troll pops up asking, “Of course, you don’t address why a fair number of Pagans, who belong to a supposedly tolerant and diverse community of non-monotheists, are also in the anti-Muslim camp.”
It’s all about [nasty Western] imperialism, you see.
Sure. Take Persia (Iran) for example, the center of a major empire for centuries. Then conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the eighth century, who killed off most of the native Zoroastrian priests and imposed Islam at the point of the sword. Reconquered by the Muslim Tamerlane, who piled up thousands of skulls whenever someone “questioned his authoritah.”
Seriously, I think we are in the “anti-Muslim camp” because we know well that thousands of Muslims want us either (a) converted to their One True Way or (b) dead. Those are your choices.
Look what happens when a “moderate” politician in Pakistan questions that country’s draconian anti-blasphemy laws, which make it criminal to say anything remotely bad about Islam—although you can insult Hindus, Christians, and, I suppose, even Wiccans to your heart’s content.
When he is murdered, his killer is a hero to lawyers (!) and to religious leaders. (Read the dead governor’s last Twitter here.)
I have to wonder, when you drive through Islamabad or Lahore, are there billboards?
Know a Blasphemer?
Call our confidential tip line: 1-8oo-OFF-HEAD
Allah will reward you (and so will the government)!
Is a thorough knowledge of blasphemy law a way to riches in the Pakistani legal profession, like being an expert in water law is here in Colorado?
• • •
One of my favorite scholars of new religious movements, Bob Ellwood, wrote a book late in his career called Cycles of Faith: The Development of the World’s Religions.
He set forth a sort of “lifespan development” theory of religion, in which all the biggies go through the same stages, even as humans go through infancy, childhood, adolescence, etc.
It seems too pat, but it’s appealing, at least when looking at Christianity and Islam.
Ellwood argues that Islam now is where Christianity stood in the 16th century, in the “reformation” stage. And that was the era of the witch trials and of religious wars up and down Europe with aftershocks that carried into the Americas and even followed European explorers and settlers into Africa and South Asia.
Islam, he argues “is in fact displaying many of the initial characteristics of the Reformation period in the history of a world religion. There is a response to secularizing trends, an inward fervor, the early desire to create an ideal society, the emergence of a new kind of elite.” In this case, Islamic thinkers see decay in the Muslim world and blame it all on “the West” (and on the Jews, naturally).
So the concern troll above is just parroting that line: everything the matter in the Islamic world is the fault of “the West.”
Ultimately, Ellwood suggests, the blood-letting recedes, and we move into the era of Folk Religion, when a dominant religion becomes disconnected from the concerns of the political elites—except when convenient. That is where he places Western Christianity now.
I find the book interesting although I distrust Grand Intellectual Schemes. And I doubt that I will live long enough to see the end of the bloody Islamic “reformation,” which because I am a Western Pagan, represents a very real threat to my health and well-being if it comes too close.
Lucky for Jason Pitzl-Waters, there are no blasphemy laws in America, and the very fact that the Washington Post solicits his views shows that religion is not something we kill people over in America, usually.