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Causes and Catapults

The Incarnation and Its Enemies

For over a thousand years, Western civilization was defined by the shifting religious frontier between Christianity and Islam, and the Muslim religion was the ultimate enemy. Whenever Western Christians wished to condemn a person or a movement, the obvious tactic was to compare it to Islam. When a medieval French king wanted to justify his bloody plunder of the order of Knights Templar, he claimed (falsely) that the knights worshiped a sinister pagan idol called Baphomet, a simple mangling of the name of "Mahomet." In Stuart England, orthodox Christians faced a rationalist challenge from skeptical Deists, and they replied in the traditional manner by accusing their critics of being closet Muslims. As a piece of scholarly name-calling, it is difficult to beat Humphrey Prideaux's Life of Mahomet (1697), more fully The True Nature of Imposture Fully Display'd in the Life of Mahomet. . . Offered to the Consideration of the Deists of the Present Age.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric is nothing new for Western society, but within the past century, some distinguished Christian thinkers have explored the full significance of that chasm between the Cross and the Crescent. After all, just looking at the countless wars between the two sides, there is remarkably little to choose between them in terms of the saints and villains each produced. Even in the era of the Crusades, it was the Muslims who produced, in Saladin,...

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