Islam: A threat or a challenge to the Christian West

by Alberto M. Piedra  |  2002  |  PAPERS & STUDIES
Source : Die Bedeutung der Religion für die Gesellschaft  (Berlin)

Note: Dr. Piedra presented this paper at the American-German Colloquium in Augsburg, Germany, in June 2002. It was published as a chapter in Anton Rauscher's edited volume, Die Bedeutung der Religion fürdie Gesellschaft: Erfahrungen und Probleme in Deutschland und den USA(Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2004).

Introduction

The well known British writer and historian Hilaire Belloc wrote these words in 1938: “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.”[1] Can these words be applied also to Christianity and other world religions at the beginning of the twenty first century? The West, as well as other parts of the world, seems to have lost the real meaning of man under a quagmire of materialism, hedonism and other “isms” which have made him forget the transcendental nature of his being.

Even though multiple attempts have been made to deny the existence of evil, the reality of history has demonstrated the falsehood of such a misleading belief. The German nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzche predicted in his last major work Beyond Good and Evil that Western civilization was ready to move to a new era in which both good and evil were things of the past. How illusory proved to be these unfounded forecasts in the wake of the barbarous mass killings that took place during the past twentieth century and which culminated in the present day suicide bombings and premeditated destruction of innocent lives.The recent criminal and murderous attack on defenceless civilian populations of no military value whatsoever has once again brought to light the existence of evil in the world and how the distinction between good and evil has been blurred to such an extent that these barbarous acts, not limited to any particular group or nation, are done in the name of ideologies which remind us of the darkest pages in history. 

The reality of the existence of evil should convince our contemporary society of the fallacy of the ideas of such progressive philosophers as John Dewey and his disciples who contend that evil can be eradicated through education and social reform. For them, the very concept of evil is considered unprogressive and incompatible with the “utopian” belief in the infinite perfectibility of man. Apparently, the Christian concept of the fallen nature of man and his tendency toward evil is, for all practical purposes, rejected. It had to take the terrorist bombing of the New York World Trade Centre on September the eleventh 2001 to awaken the complacent and hedonistic Weste