A common narrative of modernity is that secularization and skepticism about religion both grow out of, and accelerate, a decline in religion. Accordingly, religion and secularization are often seen like two sides of a zero-sum transaction, both of which compete for the same cultural space.
Among recent work undertaken to challenge this outlook, the latest and most exciting contribution comes from Dr. Dominic Erdozain, whose Soul of Doubt (Oxford, 2016) offers a fresh and disruptive perspective on the progression from Reformation to Modernity.
Erdozain, whom I had the privilege of studying under while doing graduate work at King’s College London, locates the roots of modern doubt in the religious conscience itself. He shows that the key figures associated with the modern secularization project—the philosophes, Spinoza, Voltaire, Darwin, Feuerbach and Marx—were actually motivated by impulses native to the Christian faith. The early propagators of secular enlightenment claimed the spiritual high ground against the religious structures of their day.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain. The purpose for meeting with Adja was to negotiate an end to Muslim raids on American ships.
Jefferson and Adams later reported what the ambassador said when asked how he could justify such attacks. According to the report given to Congress, Adja replied “that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Little has changed in the intervening years concerning Islamic hatred of Americans. What has changed, however, is that Muslims have become more cunning in their tactics. That is the subject of Robert Spencer’s book Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs.
This book takes up where Spencer’s 2005 publication, Review of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades) left off.