It is not surprising that in the aftermath of the Paris attacks of last week that once again the subject of the state of Islam as prone to radicalism vs Christianity as no longer the religion of intolerance it was in the Middle Ages would be part of the conversation. What is surprising is how quickly recent history has been forgotten. The "Real Time With Bill Maher" program aired last night is a case in point particularly the comments by Carly Fiorina
Though I am no fan of any religion I do like to see accuracy in criticism. I grew up in the Middle East, my father was CIA and I still do business there when possible so I know the region and mentality better than most. No question Islam has more than its share of crazies these days but one forgets that it was only a few years ago that Christians were very much in the killing game with Muslims as the target. Christian Serbs murdered over 5,000 Muslims in Srebrenica BECAUSE they were Muslims. Some years earlier the war in Georgia also was very much Christian vs Muslim at least in the eyes of Muslims. Indeed Arabs who are prone as a group to think conspiracy even when there is none have little difficulty in thinking the U.S. invasion of Iraq had something to do with attacking Islam. As that invasion led to the death of over 200,000 Iraqis we can get much of the blame even though much of the killing was one Muslim group against another. Furthermore they can point to Abu Grabe as a graphic illustration of Christian disrespect for their culture and religion especially when some of the events we saw in photos were obviously aimed at offending religious taboos.
Likewise our unfettered support of Israel can be considered our support of one religion over another. Carly Fiorina in the Bill Mahar program made the point that there is no moral equivalent between the atrocities committed by the radical Islamists recently and current Christian offences against Islam. Dick Cheney in a recent interview made much the same point. Of course when one wants to compare a like for like there is no comparison between the pathetic Palestinian attacks on Israel that normally kill a few goats and make a few holes in the desert to the huge numbers of Palestinians who die from Israeli "retaliatory" shelling with weapons largely supplied from the US. In the last event the count was something like 60 Israelis (mostly soldiers) vs almost 2,000 Palestinians mostly civilians and many women and children. Whether we want to admit or not we should know the Palestinians have a point when arguing about who started what and when in that the Israelis have made little effort to abide by U.S. demands let alone the UN when it comes to building settlements on the West Bank. If you take people's land one can only expect a negative response. In fact, many Israelis themselves find the actions of their crazies as offensive as the Palestinians see them and they too see the long term dangers of always resorting to revenge.
Most of all most people may not be aware of the extensive effort of the Evangelical movement here in the U.S.to bring about the "Rapture" by the unification of Israel. This rapture by their own admission would result in the extermination of all non-believers including all the Jews, every other religion as well as non-Evangelical Christians making it the greatest mass murder of humanity in the history of mankind. The Black Death would pale by comparison. And how great this would be is preached every Sunday in Church! The flock is encouraged to send money to Israel to help create more settlements, to send letters to Congressmen to tell them to stand in the way of a Palestinian state, to go on tours to see where this great event and mass murder will take place. Of course the right wing Israelis who know this is nonsense see them as 'useful idiots'.
Meanwhile listening to preachers on TV it does not take long to identify just how narrow minded the sermons often are and how typical is the idea that only via their specific sect's path does one go to heaven. Everyone else is damned to hell. Check out people like Charles Stanley and he is not even the most crazy. For a real nut go to John Hagee. Yes Christianity has its share of crazies too and Muslims do not have to look hard to see recent points of comparison.
Finally, one of the most unfortunate and indeed dangerous aspects of the radical Islamists is the effort to stamp out education especially for women. It is well known that Christianity did the same thing centuries ago and even banned the reading of the Bible unless you were a member of the clergy. The church did not want different interpretations of the Bible and indeed when they happened they were successfully stamped out until the time of Luther. We now imagine that Christianity is confident enough to no longer be in the game of blocking education. That is not true. There is a growing momentum led by the religious right to alter text books in school to eliminate Darwin's Theory of Evolution and many other lessons of science that would seem to throw question into what is said in the Bible. They want "creationism" to be taught as a valid idea. They object to the idea that the world is older than 6,000 years and want to teach dinosaurs walked with man. They even oppose the concept of the separation of Church and State. Indeed, once the Republican party allied itself with the Christian right they got stuck having to go along with all sorts of ideas that actually have nothing to do with real Republican thought but much to do with the more radical ideas of the Evangelicals hoping for the rapture. In other words, Christianity, just like Islam is in a period of growing fundamentalism and narrow thinking. We are right to criticize Islamic radical thinking but we should not do so thinking Christianity is always any better.