Our religion is better than theirs, and we should not be reticent about saying so.
By “our” religion, I mean all the varied denominations of Judaism and Christianity. By “theirs,” I mean Islam.
And by “better,” I mean that our faith’s values, broadly speaking, are more humane, more humanly decent, and nobler than Islam’s.
If a Muslim says I’m wrong and that his faith is better, I will take no offense, but just agree to disagree, and go about my business. But if I make my claim to his face, he would not only take offense but might well attack me.
Therein lies part of the difference.
Before further explicating the contention that Judaism and Christianity are “better,” let me root the contention within the sometimes furious discussion of President Donald Trump’s speech in Warsaw, Poland, insisting on the value of “the West” and the need to defend it. The speech was not an explicitly anti-Muslim speech (although it clearly was in parts anti-Islamist), nor should it have been. But there’s nothing wrong at all with defending not just the values of “the West” but also those considered Judeo-Christian.
Among those values, at least as understood in the modern world, is the value of respecting differences even if we don’t agree with them. Islamists (again, not all Muslims, but the politicized radical ones) insist on trying to force their beliefs on us or make us die while refusing to be converted; Jews and Christians offer our faith to all and try to persuade people in our direction – out of love, without force or conscription.
At the risk of over-generalizing, and with due respect for the reality that broad generalizations may not apply in certain individual circumstances, let us examine the differences between the faiths.
The reason the Judeo-Christian tradition is better – the reason we offer it with love to the world – is because it insists on the intrinsic worth of every individual, including those who are neither Christians nor Jews. Islam doesn’t. (It recognizes the value of mankind, but not of each individual human, or at least not in the same way we do.) Likewise, Judeo-Christianity’s emphasis on free will, and freedom in general, is very different from Islam’s. Their “freedom” is usually seen as “a mental condition or a condition of the spirit,” but not a freedom (as broadly as ours is) to act on those choices without earthly repercussion. And we separate the civil law from the religious law, and leave it to God, not man, to judge and deal with actions that solely transgress the latter. Islam tends to insist that even private transgressions are sins against Allah’s community and punishable by the clerical state.
(Some Islamic law “clearly opposes the value of freedom that is not integrated to society’s peace, well-being and loyalty for the Islamic government,” according to a 2011 paper.)
The central command of Judeo-Christianity is to love; the central command of Islam is that of “submission to Allah.” The Judeo-Christian ethic is, by most rational and temporal measures, one in which grace and mercy play far more essential roles than they do in almost any iteration of Islam.
And, obviously, most of modern Judeo-Christianity accepts equality of worth between men and women, whereas most forms of Islam treat women as of lesser status.
We have good reason to think our belief system is better than theirs, and every right to say so. We have every good reason to want to create the conditions under which others have the opportunity to join our understanding and our practices, without compulsion, if they so desire. We do so by free exchange of ideas, free economies, and by offering open hearts.
And if the world of Islam, justly claiming cultural achievements of its own (including, especially centuries ago, those in math and science), wants to say it’s better, we can respect that while disagreeing.
And our societies – unlike theirs, which tend to chase out all Christians and Jews – are open to them, as long as they don’t try to physically subvert ours.
Even apart from issues of ultimate salvation, our tradition is better than theirs because ours is more a tradition of open hands than of closed fists. Let us all – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike — proselytize peacefully as we want to, and let each human being choose whom and what to believe.
Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist with a degree in theology. His faith-themed satirical novel, Mad Jones: Heretic, is due for publication this summer by Liberty Island Media.