The back and forth between Robert Spencer, author of “Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t“, and John Derbyshire is ancient history in terms of Net time. But the subject is still highly relevant. Derbyshire said this in his initial review of Spencer’s book:
I understand that this bogus equivalence must be very vexing to a committed Christian, but Spencer seems not to understand how wacky all religions seem to the irreligious. All religious faith, after all, depends on magical thinking. To people who eschew such thinking—people who prefer to ground their beliefs in the strict rules of evidence used in modern law and science—Mohammed’s flying through the air to Jerusalem on a white steed is no more preposterous than the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; and so, God’s instructions to us through Mohammed are no more or less likely to make us better or worse than his instructions through Christ.
Yet there is a profound difference between modern Christianity and the new Islam.
This difference, which Derbyshire and Spencer both understand fully, can be observed in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, et al, on any given day. Moreover, it was played out in front of a breathless world in Afghanistan while the Christian Korean aid workers were held hostage and, in two cases, brutally executed.
Given this, I wasn’t really surprised when a BBC article confirmed what had already been written about, namely that the kidnappers had used force against the Korean hostages to convince them to “convert to Islam”, at at gunpoint, no less:
“We were beaten with a tree branch or kicked around. Some kidnappers threatened us with death at gunpoint to force us to follow them in chanting their Islamic prayer for conversion,” said Jae Chang-hee.
“I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert.”
Another of the group, Yu Jung-hwa, described how she thought she was going to die.
“The most difficult moment, when I had a big fear of death, was when the Taleban shot [a] video.
“All 23 of us leaned against a wall and armed Taleban aimed their guns at us, and a pit was before me.
“They said they will save us if we believe in Islam. I almost fainted at the time and I still cannot look at cameras,” she said.
That is, of course, one way to get someone to say the magic words. But it is no way to induce belief.
If you hang me by my feet with a rope over a pit full of hungry crocodiles and begin to saw away at that rope with your bayonet, then tell me that you’ll stop hacking at the rope if I’ll say that pigs can fly, guess what? I’ll say that pigs can fly. But when I’m back on safe ground reality hasn’t changed. Pigs still aren’t going to be doing much winging about, are they? And I wouldn’t care that I said they could. Shrug. Whatever.
So if any of the hostages did break down and, in their terror, repeat after the gunmen, what does it matter? That is anything but a conversion to Islam; it’s merely an instance of a person lying under duress, saying absolutely anything, even the most contemptible lie of all, to stay alive. It’s called doing what has to be done to survive, nothing more.
That this represents some sort of triumph is very telling about what lurks in the very soul of this thing called Islam, is it not?
It’s clear to me that it is. Out of respect for friends I’ll refrain from postulating that is has always been such. Spencer has his opinion so I’ll defer to his expertise.
The vast distinction between the two religions can also be seen in our own lives. This was brought home to me in a very personal way recently when my son came stumbling out of his bedroom an hour or so after being (supposedly) put to sleep. Blinking in the bright light he asked if he could be baptized into our church.
After questioning him for a few minutes my wife and I told him that he should talk to our pastor about the matter before making a final commitment. So he ran off to bed again with a smile on his face and I have to admit that I was amazingly happy at what had just happened. It had been perhaps the last thing I had expected.
Now here’s the payoff from this post.
After our pastor spoke to our son he found my wife and I and said, “I spoke to your son about being baptized and I just don’t feel that he’s ready to do that yet.”
There was some additional discussion, of course, and the pastor presented his reasons, all of which came back to the fact that he felt like our son didn’t yet have a full enough understanding of Christianity and the responsibilities he would have to bear to commit to following Jesus yet.
That was a hard thing to tell my son because he is convinced that’s what he wants to do. (But he knows that the real conversion takes place in one’s heart. What happens in the church is really for friends and family, not for God.)
Most importantly I’m proud of our pastor for having the integrity to do what was right instead of taking a shortcut in the unending quest to add another member to the roles.
Conversion at gunpoint vs. waiting until a boy is ready.
That’s a mighty big difference, isn’t it?
Cross-posted at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.