By Tony Philpott | 30 June 2017
Church and State
Agoraphobia, triskaidekaphobia and xenophobia.
Only one of them has a basis in rationality. Only one of them has survival-value in the evolutionary sense. It’s the last of the three; xenophobia, the fear of strangers. And for good reason.
Every single living thing on Earth is pre-programmed first to “self”-recognition, then to “family” recognition and on to wider “clan” recognition. If you do not smell like me, look like me and behave like me then you are not part of my family or my clan. It applies to dung beetles, reindeer, and primates. And it was one of the most important “instinctual” advantages ever granted to living things.
In early human evolution territoriality was paramount. A space was claimed, its resources were claimed – food and shelter were claimed within a foraging region. Anything entering that space; anything that was not recognised, visually, behaviourally or by the scent-senses, as clan or family, was recognised as a threat to resources.
And, in the very primitive coding of our DNA, the echo of that instinct remains.
Like our vestigial tails, like our fight-or-flight response to danger, like our startle-reflex, we still carry these Darwinian imperatives within us – we have no choice but to do so, we can no more relinquish them than we can relinquish the colour of our eyes.
But we were animals then. Not socialised. We had not yet risen to rationality, we had not yet arrived at a point where there were enough “resources” for all of us to share without threat to their diminution by strangers, and no need to perceive the “outsider” as a threat.
But that does not decrease the value of fear, the value of phobia, in the contemporary sense. Arachnophobia (certainly in countries where there are no poisonous spiders) is an utterly irrational fear. But what if those spiders did bite with venom? What if every daddy-long-legs encountered could actually kill? Our “irrational” phobia would shift, very swiftly, to the rational. Spiders actually can kill.
Equally, if every massacre of innocents, in airports, or in tall towers, or in Manchester concert halls, or on London streets were preceded by the cry of “Allahu Akbar”, might we not be justifiably afraid of those who shout those words.
And so, to the “Phobia That Dare Not Speak Its Name.”
For fifty years we recognised Russian Communism, Russian belligerence, and Marxist orthodox thought as being not just ideologically opposed to Western civilisation, but vehemently dedicated to actually destroying it. The USSR declared its obliterating ambitions as a matter of political policy.
It’s the same with radical Islam.
Look at Anjem Choudry, look at the words of Al Baghdadi, look at the declarative placards of protesting Islamists in London, Berlin, or Islamabad – pick the location and pick the medium given to their expressions, and we’ll find that their religious ambition remains the same; the obliteration of Western values, the obliteration of art, music, literature, democracy – and even the very annihilation of the human image.
So, if fear, as a phobia, is defined as a rational threat, then it is indeed quite rational to fear radical Islam – a philosophy whose canonical Koranic tenets reveal at least 109 verses that absolutely require Muslims to wage war against those who do not share the same faith. Even for “moderate” Muslims the Koran is rife with commands to chop off the heads and to execute “infidels” and non-Muslims, but worse, those Muslims who do not join in the beheadings are warned that they will go to Hell. (Countless imperatives in the Koran support this.)
So, assuming Islam is based upon the Koran, just like Christianity is based upon the Bible, then one is either engaged with the totality of either text, or one is not.
Therefore, to profess oneself as a Christian, or as a Muslim, surely requires the complete embrace of each religion’s foundational text?
So, can a moderate Muslim remain truly moderate in the context of the Koran if that book espouses such demonstratively vile precepts? Equally, can a moderate Christian divorce him or herself from a Jesus who said “But those mine enemies, who did not want me to be king over them bring them here and slay them before me” (New Testament Luke 19:27).
No, they can’t – not if they embrace either text, not if they (as women) wear the burka or hijab as submissions to late iron-age masculinity, not if they, as men consider women to be inferior, or consider swords, bombs and blood as defining their manhood.
We, in the West, stopped fearing Christianity with the dawn of the Enlightenment; after which, the belligerent words of Jesus were assigned to the realm of myth and theology, both of which have had a declining impact on the civil development of the Western world. As time passed, and as reason arose, Biblical imperatives were seen for what they are: nonsense, irrelevancies, and meaningless speed-bumps that slowed the advance of civilisation.
But now, radical Islam rises. And it rises with the (Western) technology that allows its idiocy to propagate. Radical Islam doesn’t ask; it demands. It demands that we either live under Sharia law, or under the rubble that they vow they will bury us under.
We have an absolute right to fear radical Islam. All human beings do.
Islamophobia, like all phobias is a rational response to a real threat; in the case of ISIS, it is an instinctive human response to a threat to liberty, to a threat to art, to literature, to democracy, to music, to joy, and to life itself.
Allahu Akbar? I don’t think so.
Tony Philpott is a published author and screenwriter. His latest book “Faithless – A Journey Out Of Religion With Stops For Light Refreshment Along The Way” is a biting and humorous critique of religion and irrationality.
Faithless – A Journey Out Of Religion With Stops For Light Refreshment Along The Way
By Tony Philpott
The Liffey Press (November 2013)
The Islamic State (Full Length)
Flemming Rose and Dave Rubin: Muhammad Cartoons, Islamism in Europe, Charlie Hebdo
What Are the Arguments Against Religion? A. C. Grayling on the Case for Humanism (2013)
Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook