Alex Massie

How the Elector of Saxony Created Osama bin Laden. Or Something.

Text settings

So it's all-Corner all the time here today. Next up is the never-knowingly-undersold Mark Steyn:

The Islamic "reformation" is, in a sense, the opposite of Christianity's. The Saudis have used their vast oil enrichment to promote themselves as a kind of Holy See for Muslims, and the Wahhabization of previously low-key syncretic localized Islams in almost every corner of the planet is testament to their success. I look at the gazillions of dollars tossed into the great sucking maw of US "intelligence" agencies and I wonder why somewhere in the budget we couldn't put something aside to promote a bit of covert ideological rollback in Chechnya or Bosnia or Pakistan. But we're not that savvy, and God knows what unintended consequences would blow up in our faces.

And at one level the Islamist "reformation" makes perfect sense. After all, they look at Christianity's reformation and see that everywhere but the United States it led to the ebbing of faith and its banishment to the fringes of life. The jihadist reformation is, as they see it, a rational response to the Christian one.

You what? The Reformation led to the "banishment" of religion "to the fringes of life"? Crikey. This would have been news to Calvin, Knox, Zwingli et al. but perhaps Steyn really does mean that if we were all still Roman Catholics we'd all still be good, observant believers?

I suppose you could make a case that absent the Reformation, the Enlightenment might have been rather different but does it really need to be said that if Protestantism (and religious schism and war) "led to the ebbing of faith" this was a tide that slipped away extremely slowly? As in, taking 400 years to ebb. And frankly if you want to find a reason for the decline of religious fervour in western Europe I'd suggest that the trenches of the Western Front have more to do with it than Martin Luther.

Still, Steyn is right that, for sure, there are radical Islamists who don't like the idea of reform. In other news, Pope Still Catholic.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyreligion