Islam and Christianity are not so Different

It is a fact of nature that teenagers are generally immature when compared to adults. They sometimes engage in behaviors that are socially unacceptable and the bane of many of their parents. The same can be said about nations and empires. The United States of America today is considered a bastion of freedom but two hundred years ago that was not the case. Around 1811 AD the nation builders were in the process of forcing the Indians off of their ancestral lands, kidnapping hundreds of thousands of African natives for slave labor and denying equal rights to their own women.

Our nation was founded with a institution that created a democratic republic which gave full voting rights to white men only. Since that founding we've weathered a civil war and several civil rights movements to give full equality to all citizens. To that end, the constitution has been amended twenty-seven times. So we see that with people as well as institutions there is a maturation process. If immature people and nations exhibit unacceptable behavior, what about religions? I ask this question with the behavior of Muslim extremists in mind.

The Christian religion today is considered one of the most charitable organizations in the world but Islam is a younger religion and in a since, a reckless teenager. Islam came into being in the year 610 AD. So if we are to judge Islam fairly, shouldn't we compare apples to apples and look at Christianity when it was the same age as Islam is today, about 1400 years old?

If you Google Christianity and the year 1400 AD you will be presented with an image of an organization whose activities will make your hair stand on end. Crusades to forcefully convert people to Christianity was common and led to the massacre of untold thousands of innocent people whose only crime was an unwillingness to renounce their own religion and accept Christian beliefs. During this period of time (1482-1800) there was very little separation of church and state. Persecution of people who disagreed with the church was common. The term Inquisition refers to an institution of the Roman Catholic Church that was specifically charged with hunting down people who did not hold or exhibit orthodox christian beliefs. Those lukewarm Catholics were subjected to harsh punishment and cruel torture. This era was also characterized by the hunting down and killing of so-called witches by members of the Christian churches. Historians estimate between 60,000 and 300,000 people (eighty-five percent female) were hanged, drowned, burned at the stake, tortured or otherwise violently murdered for being disciples of the devil. On May 30, 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for offenses which included wearing a man's clothing and cutting her hair short. In 1492 Christians expelled over 100,000 Jews from Spain causing the starvation deaths of thousands of men, women and children. Similar pogroms and expulsions took place in many European countries. The list of atrocities of the type listed above is both long and depressing. Christianity was being promoted, at the point of a spear or blade of a sword, as the one true religion; much as Islam is seen to behave today.

In Islam, women are required to cover their bodies the same as colonial era women were. Today Islamic women must accept second class citizenship with limited rights. In some countries they can't drive cars or find employment without the consent of a husband or male member of their family. The same kind of restrictions applied to Christian women worldwide six hundred years ago. In fact, some feminists would argue that second-class treatment continues today, including less compensation for doing the same work. Muslim women who are accused and found guilty of adultery are subject to fatal stoning under Islamic law. In the early Christian era they were also subject to vicious cruelty including having the letter "A" branded into their flesh and were often murdered. In modern times many Christian men kill their wives when they suspect them of adultery.

So we see just in the few comparisons I've laid out, the case can be made that Islam today, like Christianity six hundred years ago, is in its violent adolescent stage and will continue to engage in socially unacceptable behavior for many decades or centuries to come. This stage will continue until social pressures and enlightenment from within changes its sense of itself.