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December 30, 2003

God is Great...for now

While I'm blogging about Islam....

A few weeks ago, "jimbo" asked me if a sincere believing Muslim could be a liberal democrat (emphasis on the small caps here!). Thrasymachus also seemed to offer the opinion that Islam is just designed better and won't throw out all sorts of oddities like liberalism, science, etc.

Since I'm not a sincere believing Muslim, it's kind of weird to ask me. Never have been a theist, and God willing, never will be. I've only even been acknowledging the appellation Muslim since for security purposes, that's what I am (Muslims say you are Muslim if your father is). But, some Muslims who are sincere believers can be liberal democrats. But can most sincere believers who are Muslims? I don't know.

Frankly, I think that jimbo's question could be rephrased as such: Can a Protestant/Catholic in 1550 be a sincere liberal Democrat? I am being a bit uncharitable, but the median Muslim is probably somehwere between the Reformation Era Western Christian and the typical modern Christian. That, is a problem.

It also addresses a part of Thrasymachus' assertion. Would anyone guess that the revolution of Luther and Calvin would birth liberalism in the most Catholic of Protestant nations? (England) Protestantism can I think fairly be characterized as the fundamentalism of its age. Sola Scriptura, by the Bible alone, goes the Protestant saying. What has fidelity to the Good Book wrought? Well, today there are only a few true Protestant nations of European stock, the United States, being the shining exception to the rule. Similarly, Talmudic Judaism was "by the Book," and anticipated the tendency of some Protestants to find in scripture and commentary every answer to life.

Both Talmudic Judaism and fire & brimestone European Protestantism remain as rumps within the broader confession of their traditions.

To use the software analogy, Catholicism might have been a less tightly crafted class which wasn't a perfect implemenation of Christianity's original specifications, but it has been far more extensible and more well commented (compare the relative resilience of Catholicism in Germany and Holland in comparison to mainstream Protestantism, or northern vs. southern Europe). All the inflexible methods of the Protestant Reformations have resulted in wholescale rewrites and more or less a discarding of the original code-base by many as the needs of the end-users have shifted.

Of course, fundamentalist Protestantism is powerful in the non-white world, and Islam has foundational differences from both Protestantism and Talmudic Judaism. I will explore that later....

Posted by razib at 03:18 PM