The Reactionary Utopian
                     August 29, 2006

by Joe Sobran

     A Christian recently kidded a Jewish friend thus: 
"Nobody would call Jews stupid. So why did the early 
Zionists, wanting to escape anti-Semitism, choose to 
build a Jewish state in, of all the places on earth, a 
region whose prevalent religion is profoundly hostile to 

     The Jew shrugged ruefully: "Next stop, Mars."

     I became disillusioned with the State of Israel a 
quarter of a century ago. Yet today I can only pity the 
Israelis as they face the wrath of a resurgent Muslim 

     Yes, the Israelis have committed their own sins and 
mistakes. Tact has never been their long suit. Like our 
own government, they have needlessly inflamed the Muslim 
world to the point of murderous fury.

     Maybe their worst miscalculation has been to 
underestimate the depth of that hostility. Most Jews, in 
Israel as elsewhere, are essentially secularized 
Westerners who find it hard to believe that religion can 
be a decisive force in politics.

     Religion has long since been "tamed" in the West, 
segregated from political affairs, especially 
international ones. In 1936, when the white men of Europe 
were preparing for another huge and fratricidal war, 
Islam was not a player. Europeans assumed that the Muslim 
countries were too backward ever to recover their former 
glory (though Hitler would later make alliances with some 
Muslims, finding their attitude toward the Jews to his 

     But in that year, the reactionary Catholic Hilaire 
Belloc reminded his readers that only Islam had ever come 
near to destroying Christian civilization and that it had 
done so fairly recently (while the English were settling 
in America); and he warned that it might yet revive and 
renew its assault.

     Belloc was ignored. But what sounded far-fetched in 
1936 is now starting to sound prophetic. Belloc was 
strangely like another Catholic of our own day, whose 
dire predictions have repeatedly survived mockery and 
come to pass: Patrick Buchanan.

     Belloc had a gift for seeing patterns in history 
that were invisible to complacent liberal opinion, which 
expected progress in the form of continued 
secularization. As science and reason advanced, religion 
would die out and peace would ensue.

     It hasn't quite worked out that way. As Belloc 
observed, Islam still retains its fervor, tenacity, and 
resistance to conversion. Today we are shocked to find 
that young men born and raised in Western countries can 
become fanatical terrorists, willing to kill and die for 
Islam. The ancient desert faith erupts unnervingly in the 
heart of civilized London.

     That faith began with an ignorant, semiliterate, but 
extremely eloquent Arab around the year 622. Mohammed 
claimed to follow in the traditions of Judaism and 
Christianity and to supersede both religions, but his 
attempts to convert Jews failed when Jews found his 
understanding of their religion risible. The same 
happened when he approached Christians. His initial 
friendliness to both faiths turned to bitter hostility.

     Mohammed's conception of Allah was a severe one: an 
almighty and arbitrary deity (though "compassionate" and 
"merciful"), not a loving Father in Heaven. Mohammed 
rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, which he absurdly 
misapprehended, thinking Christians believed that the 
three Persons were God the Father, Jesus the Son, and 
Mary the mother of Jesus. Nobody knows where he got this 
idea, but he denied Jesus' divinity while honoring him as 
a prophet. (Curiously, Mohammed accepted the Virgin 
Birth, and he both affirmed and denied the Resurrection.) 
Believers in the Trinity, he taught, will be damned.

     It is often remarked that Mohammed's Allah is even 
more remote and forbidding than John Calvin's God, more 
disposed to condemn than to forgive. Even without the 
doctrine of Original Sin, arbitrary punishment and 
predestination seem to be at the heart of Islam. The 
inscrutable will of the Almighty is not bound by any 
natural law intelligible to humans; if he commands 
murder, murder becomes a duty. Divine might is right. 
Allah is free even to contradict himself.

     Fortunately for Islam, Mohammed was a better warrior 
and statesman than theologian, and in making converts he 
used the sword and tax incentives to supplement 
persuasion. In a few generations Islam had conquered not 
only the Middle East, but lands as remote as Spain.

     Will it conquer again? It remains a fighting faith, 
demographically expansive, facing a depopulated religious 
vacuum in what used to be Christendom.


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