In the very early fifth century St. Augustine took on a very thorny religious issue: if God is all-loving, why did he create a world in which Evil occurs? Augustine (and later Thomas Aquinas) bucked down and came up with the best answer (though still somewhat unsatisfying) he could: free will.
According to Augustine, a world without Evil is a world where there is no choice between Evil and Good. If there is no ability to choose, there is no free will. If there is no free will, then men are automatons; they walk through their life untempted and untested, so there is no virtue. Men are granted free will to create a higher order of Good, one that transcends Evil, because in freely choosing Good they are intrinsically better. And men are responsible for those choices; if they use their free will to act evilly they accumulate a burden of sin for which they are ultimately to blame. With free will comes responsibility.
Modern Islam also believes in a somewhat weaker version of free will, which is why in some instances it allows or even encourages adherents to use their free will to do things that in western eyes are truly Evil. If a man blows up a school bus because he wants to, that’s Evil. If he blows it up in service to God to advance the goals of the religion, that’s good. Free will used to commit Evil acts against innocents is not a sin in this case because the blame is shifted from the perpetrator and onto the victims. They were Infidels, kaffirs, members of a society that Islam views as inimical to their own. There is no personal sin.
Westerners are mystified at how the Islamic world manages to justify these acts of fierce atrocity committed by men and women who appear, in their daily lives, to be pretty decent folk. The Jihadi who devotes his afternoons and weekends to coach children soccer but then blows up a busload of women and kids is a genuine mystery to westerners and for good reason – he makes no sense. Yet the Jihadis see no contradiction at all – they lionize their murderers and promise them paradise for what we see as foul immoral crimes. How can this be?
Conservatives tend to view this behavior as a consequence of a flawed and dysfunctional value set – Islamic culture is inherently intolerant and violent because their beliefs encourage such. The political left has a different take, to them the Suicide Bomber is a religious nut and since all religions are prone to such excesses, why should he not do as he does? The Beast hears this all the time from his Liberal acquaintances: “Christianity kills lot of people too, and more violence has been perpetrated in the name of Religion over the course of history than anything else. I don’t like religious zealots of any kind” This is a classic secularist argument, but like most of what passes for thought in the liberal world it dangles from the thin thread of false equivalency — namely that all religions represent an equal danger to the world because they are all inherently primitive and potentially violent.
It unarguable that Christendom has shed oceans of blood over the millennia, but just as it is unarguable that the T-Rex did much the same in the Jurassic, one must judge present risk in light of present conditions. Christendom was once as bloody as Islam, but unlike Islam Christianity changed. The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century was bloody and violent, but it paved the way for The Great Enlightenment of the seventeenth century, creating and establishing civil societies in which religion became more of a personal and moral element than a political one. This did not happen in the Islamic world – they are still operating from a thirteenth century mindset.
Religiously inspired slaughter by Christians is essentially nonexistent in this world. Your chances of being killed by a Christian zealot for the Greater Glory of God is roughly on the order of being hit by a lightning bolt during a shark attack. If you doubt this claim, news google “Christian Violence” and then “Muslim Violence” and then compare body counts.
There is no doubt that plenty of Christians believe in their religion as deeply and fervently as the most devout Muslim. The difference is – while the Christian Zealot may, on rare occasions, burn down an Abortion clinic he will wait until everybody has left for the night to avoid killing people. The Muslim Zealot does not concern himself with such niceties.
Again, there is no Christian equivalent to the slaughter going on in the Muslim world today, so why does the political left try so hard to group them together on the same moral shelf? There are clear and quantifiable differences, one would think they could see that.
Yet the multicultural left seems to have no problem overlooking the Evils perpetrated by Islam. Bombings in Iraq? Bush is to blame for westerners being there at all. You’ve heard the argument: “If Iraqis were in America we’d be doing the same thing, right?”
Well, no. If America suffered under the yoke of a murderous tyrant and Iraqis came to remove him and then aided us in restoring Democracy, we’d be grateful. We would not be shooting at them. It’s a false comparison.
How about the “Youths” in Europe who chant “Allahu Akhbar” as they light up the fortieth Renault of the evening?
“Social injustice, their complaints are economic, not religious.”
Violence in Iraq?
“America’s fault for removing Sadaam. The country was much more stable under his rule (i.e. good?)!”
So Islam is not to blame for any of this – religious nuts do what they do because they were programmed to do it. And the free choice to riot and bomb and is ultimately not a free choice at all, society (particularly western society) drives them to it.
One has to wonder if the left really shares the concept of free will: Jihadis blow up buses because they are religious fanatics, so they are not personally at fault. And they have been turned to this dark side because they are victims of oppression, racism, land theft, mockery. Nobody is to blame for anything except US in general and Bush in specific.
How does one cope with the problem of Evil if one rejects free will? What are you left with; some sort of neo-Skinnerian socio/economic determinism? Guess it makes sense; remove the opportunity to choose Evil and you get a default choice of good. Gun violence? Get rid of guns. War fatalities? Stop fighting wars.
And yet the slaughter continues, the body parts and the liberal apologies fly despite all the goodwill in the world. Christianity did its work on Evil hundreds of years ago – Liberalism is still at it and their answers are awfully murky. They’d best get cracking if they wish to catch up.