In his new book, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, a fine scholar of the Near East, Bernard Lewis, has given us a marvelous insight — an insight our secular humanist movement has been pointing out to one and all for generations.
Lewis holds that by all modern measures — industrial output, artistic achievement, and political freedom — Islam has bit the dust. „For many centuries," Lewis writes, "the world of Islam was in the forefront of human civilization and achievement. [By the medieval era, it] achieved the highest level so far in human history in the arts and sciences, [and offered a culture] polyethnic, multiracial, international." By comparison, „Europe was a pupil and in a sense a dependent of the Islamic world." So what happened to change all this?
As Europe approached the Renaissance, it advanced „by leaps and bounds, leaving the scientific and technological and eventually the cultural heritage of the Islamic world far behind." As his second reason, Lewis gives us the very essence of what we've been saying since the founding of our country — its failure to disentangle religion and the state: „[In Islam, from the beginning,] the state was the church and the church was the state, and God was head of both."
What better example do we need in order to convince others to stop those Christians who want to incorporate their religious dogmas into our secular institutions of government, medicine, education and welfare?
Published in the 2002 November/December issue of the American Rationalist ©.
(Last change: 21-09-2003)