Monday, March 19, 2012

A Catholic Historian's Take on the Tenacity of Islam

Past is prologue. No one demonstrates this more than the Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc. Take some time and read these excerpts from his book, The Great Heresies, written in March of 1936. You will learn something about Islam and the events that are unfolding today. Knowing history is a key to knowing the future.


by Hilaire Belloc (1936)

Chapter Four

The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed

"The future always comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least some partial judgment of what that surprise may be. And for my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically paralyzed but morally intensely alive. We are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable. Let us then examine the position.

Millions of modern people of the white civilization that is, the civilization of Europe and America have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past.

I have said throughout these pages that the particular quality of Islam, regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. Alone of all the great heresies Islam struck permanent roots, developing a life of its own, and became at last something like a new religion. So true is this that today very few men, even among those who are highly instructed in history, recall the truth that Islam was essentially, in its origins, not a new religion, but a heresy.

Whatever the cause be, Islam has survived, and vigorously survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It still converts pagan savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time some European eccentric, who joins its body. But the Muslim never becomes a Catholic. No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morals, its organized system of prayer, its simple doctrine.

These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Islamic world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world?

I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: one might say that they are blinded by it.

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it; we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines the very structure of our society is dissolving.

In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of patriotism. But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are making for the destruction of our culture, notably the...Communist propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our
old-fashioned patriotism.

In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral Doctrine or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up of religion in Europe. The whole spiritual strength of Islam is still present in the masses of Syria and Anatolia, of the East Asian mountains, of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.

The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic power, may be delayed: but I doubt whether it can be permanently postponed."