Pagans and Christians

Homosexuality, abortion and infanticide, recreational sex, no-fault divorce; gladiators, priestesses; mass public entertainment; public works and conscription of all kinds – the old pagan world had many parallels to our modern, neo-pagan one. The early Christians were recognizably “counter-cultural,” or “pro-life.” But to a Roman citizen, of some sophistication, what business had Christians with the way people live? They were otherworldly, it shouldn’t concern them.

And if they were so pro-life, why so eager to get themselves martyred? Just asking for it, often as not, when their humane prosecutors were trying to give them an out. Clearly these were fanatics, crazy people. Leave them to their foibles and their cult will soon fade.
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The world we face today is not like Greece and Rome. It is much more like the ancient East: a swamp in which reason finds little purchase. In order to evangelize, we must forego leaps. We must not assume premisses shared by all men of reason and good will. We must start with the very premisses.

Where Does One Start?

See also Islam and the Decalogue:

I first noticed something unusual about Islam during the 1980s when I was doing research for my book, Ethics in Context. I devoted one section of the book to the “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule, in its negative or positive formulations, is incorporated not only in Christianity (Matt. 7:12), where Jesus declares it is a summary of “the law and the prophets,” but also in other major religions. For example, in Judaism, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor”; in Hinduism, “Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself”; in Buddhism, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”; in Confucianism, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.”

I took this as evidence of the relative universality of rational ethical principles in the world. But in Islam, I could find nothing of the sort, rather just the opposite – a reverse Golden Rule, so to speak: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Be merciful to one another, but ruthless to the unbelievers” (Qur’an 48:29); “Never take unbelievers for friends” (3:28). Furthermore, the commands in the Qur’an to slay the unbelievers wherever they find them (2:191), not befriend them (3:28), fight them and show them harshness (9:123), and smite their heads (47:4) – accentuate distance from the Golden Rule.

So I decided at that time just to omit any reference to Islam in that chapter. As I have discovered in further researches, however, the ethical/religious problems within Islam are even more serious. Just as Islam teaches the reverse of the Golden Rule, it teaches the reverse of the last seven of the Ten Commandments, which have to do with morality:

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