ISIS is the Islamic “Reformation”

On August 10th 1566 an enraged crowd of Huguenots burst into the Chapel of St. Lawrence in Steenvorde France and proceeded to destroy with hammers and picks any ecclesiastical art that they came across. They toppled statues of Mary and the saints, destroyed crucifixes, smashed stain glassed windows, and defaced tombs. It was not an isolated incident, indeed it triggered a wave of iconoclastic fury that radiated north from France into the Low Countries, with cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and hospitals all targeted for destruction.

One witness wrote: “They tore the curtains, dashed in pieces the carved work of brass and stone, brake the altars, … [they] burned and rent not only all kind of Church books, but, moreover, destroyed whole libraries of books…”

Inspired by the theology of Calvin and Zwingli who taught a literal interpretation of the Decalogue’s prohibition on graven images, the enraged crowd targeted all art which they saw as blasphemous and contrary to their new order. In short they wished to erase all vestiges of the past.

For one versed in early modern European history the events of this past week in Mosul seem eerily familiar. On February 26th the Guardian reported that “Islamic State militants ransacked Mosul’s central museum, destroying priceless artefacts that are thousands of years old, in the group’s latest rampage…”

As is the case in the Guardian‘s coverage, the story is often accompanied by Islamic State video showing black-clad, bearded extremists taking power tools to ancient Assyrian and Akkadian statues. We watch in horror as ancient statues of massive winged bulls have their faces erased by jack-hammers and we see statues being toppled over. According to the Guardian, an ISIS representative declares that, “These statues and idols, these artifacts, if God has ordered its removal, they became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars.” Another article in the Guardian reported that the Islamic State has bragged about the burning of over 100,000 books – some going back thousands of years – in Mosul’s central library.

Which is why there’s such irony in articles like Raza Rumi’s “Islam Needs Reformation from Within” in the Huffington Post, or books like Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. These are far from isolated examples; indeed it has become a truism in our political discourse that Islam “needs a reformation.” But if historical parallels are at all useful, it indeed seems that a reformation is precisely what we are getting right now. Our political pundits, as inheritors of a triumphalist Anglo-American Protestant historiography, often embrace a fallacy that conflates the tremendously complicated reformation (and I am using this word to mean both the various Protestant reformations as well as the Catholic Counter-Reformation) with the likewise tremendously complicated Enlightenment.

But while reformation may signal modernity – and this is important in the context of any discussion about the Islamic State – it doesn’t always signal progress, liberalism, or democracy. It’s often presented as a given that the existence of modern democracy, capitalism, and science grow purely out of the reformation, but John Calvin was not Thomas Jefferson (arguably Thomas Jefferson wasn’t even Thomas Jefferson). It’s a reductionist understanding of history, and it becomes dangerous when misapplied to current events.

Our educations have tended to gloss over the brutal violence of the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries that was perpetrated by both Catholics and Protestants. Millions of Europeans were killed on a scale unimaginable during the medieval era (even though our common parlance has us believe that that the Middle Ages were a particularly brutal period). From the French wars of religion, to the English civil wars, to the Thirty Years’ War (where possibly 30% of German civilians perished) the arrival of modernity signaled terror and horror in many corners.

How we use words like “medieval,” “reformation,” and “modern” must be exact if we’re to make any sense out of what the Islamic State is, and how we are to defeat it. Graeme Wood’s controversial Atlantic cover essay “What ISIS Really Wants” has opened discussion in the press about what language we use to describe the Islamic State. It may be politically expedient to deny that the Islamic State is Islamic (and of course the majority of the world’s Muslims find it reprehensible) but it’s also to commit the “No True Scotsmen Fallacy.”

Where Wood’s analysis falters is when he claims that there is a “dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature.” The fact is that when other pundits declare a need for an Islamic reformation that is exactly what the Islamic State is delivering. Far from medieval they’re eminently modern, they are simply an example of the worst grotesqueries that modernity has to offer.

And they’re not early modern as my previous historical examples have it, they’re as modern as we are. They may wish to return to their own fantasy version of an ancient past (and Wood even notes that ISIS recruitment videos utilize scenes of medieval warfare skillfully edited from contemporary movies) but no group, liberal or reactionary, can escape their own time period. To designate them as “medieval” is to merely engage in an outmoded school of historical critique that has more to do with our own constructed pasts and our own prejudices than it does reality.

The modern world has never been devoid of religion and the presence of religion does not mean we are in the medieval. We are not fighting a medieval army for the simple reason that it is not the middle ages. It is to buy into that old “war of civilizations” idea that eliminates complex historical contingencies in favor of a narrative every bit as mythic as what the Islamic State believes about itself. Indeed it is a formidable and evil army, but it is a modern army. The Islamic State, as Haroon Moghul notes in Salon, was born out of the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq. From the debris of that incredible mistake they have taken the technology of modernity and the rhetoric of the Hollywood action film to claim they’re building a caliphate.

The crowd at Steenvorde and the subsequent fury of destruction they unleashed was not an isolated incident. Explosions of image destruction started in the 1530s and included cities like Basel, Augsburg, Copenhagen, Munster, Geneva, and Zurich.

In Britain it was state policy under Henry VIII with his dissolution of the monasteries. The Worcester Priory which had a respectable library of 600 books was reduced to only six, while an abbey in Yorkshire with 646 books was reduced to three. The Henrician Reformation resulted in an unfathomable destruction of England’s medieval culture every bit comparable to what may have been lost this week in Mosul.

And this isn’t just an issue of cultural vandalism. Indeed, the religious wars of early modern Europe were marked by barbarity as fervent as that occurring now in the Iraqi and Syrian deserts. We associate the Islamic State with decapitation and defenestration, but this sort of violence marked the sixteenth and seventeenth century every bit as much.

Historian Marc Lilla has argued in his book The Stillborn God that contemporary secularism emerged not out of the reformation but rather in response to the new and horrific violence that modern religion had unleashed on Europe. He claims that the modern western political order, far from being an intellectually inevitable result of ideological currents of the time, was actually a pragmatic necessity when religious violence had made Europe ungovernable.

In other words, reformation didn’t produce liberalism, liberalism was the cure for reformation. Once you familiarize yourself with the brutality on all denominational sides, from the Peasant’s Rebellion, to the Siege at Munster, to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, to the Thirty Years’ War, to the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands, to Cromwell’s brutal invasion of Ireland, it becomes hard to see the word “reformation” as a simple and positive force.

If Lilla’s thesis is correct, then the reformation led to political liberalism and the Enlightenment only because the ground was so bloody and the populace so exhausted they had expended their lust for war – a peace built on a pile of bones. So, when wishing for a reformation in Islam it behooves us to understand what it is that we are wishing for.


  •' GregAbdul says:

    “it has become a truism that Islam needs a reformation”??? You need to find a new wife…. a prettier one….is that a “truism”???

    There is no Islamic reformation coming. Da’esh is not a reformation. Da’esh is a group of criminals living on the borders of Syria and Iraq. We are two billion. How many is Da’esh? There is this white thing you guys do. You find a non white threat and you blow the hell out of it and expend unbelievable amounts of energy making one group of rouges and misfits after another look like the army of Armageddon.

    I understand the author’s point. Reformations can be messy and extremely complicated. But what I constantly fail to understand is why is it that people who have zero real world contact with Muslims, constantly go on and on about Muslims as if they know all about us, when in reality, if you talk to our leaders and scholars like Suhaib Webb or Zaid Shakir or Muhammad Mendes or Mohamed Magid or Ingrid Mattson, not a single one will tell you there is anything like or near “a reformation” going in within our community.

    There are people who make a living, who are outside of the Muslim community in America…well you pick it…OUTSIDE…who go on and on about Muslims. Please give us a voice and if Mr. Simon really really wants to write about Muslims, he should come ask us. There is no reformation going on here. None on the horizon. Da’esh is a criminal enterprise that will be ended in short order. It is insulting to call them a religious movement.

    Please accept us as we are.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    in America, blacks have been mistreated by white Christians and not lived in an equal state for 500 years. Is the KKK the white American Christian reformation? If not, then why are a bunch of Arab renegades given so much type and attention and blown up, while we ignore chronic and endemic white American prejudice and the Christian Knights of the Klan and how they have helped reinforce the Christian bigotry that is deeply embedded into the fabric of America? This is a racist double standard and I only wish you would stop. The KKK and Da’esh are pretty much the same….so please let’s get the article up about how the KKK are a key influence in American Christianity.

  •' Rmj says:

    Wahhabism is a much closer parallel to the disruption in thought and theology prompted by the Reformation, and a much clearer antecedent to ISIS. If you want to understand ISIS as comparable to the Christian Reformation, you need to put it in the historical context of the violence fomented by the Reformation which outlasted the lifetimes of both Calvin and Zwingli, as ISIS comes 3 centuries after Wahhabism began.

    ISIS is less new and disruptive than it is a product of currents in Islam and in the politics of the “Middle East” (not to mention the sheer chaos visited on the region by the West, a chaos with its own deep historical roots; the invasion of Iraq was just the latest in a long line of such disruptions of order in the name of order). To this day you can find Protestant denominations (MO Synod Lutherans come to mind) who still officially denounce the “Whore of Babylon” (by which they mean the Roman Catholics) long after the rest of Christianity has embraced ecumenism among Christians and even with non-Christians. There are individual Protestants who still repeat slanders against Catholics that date back 500 years. Do such things condemn all Christians? Or prove Christianity still needs a “reformation”?

    Just as with European Christianity, Islamic history is complex and multi-national, and it didn’t all begin yesterday or even the day before. Yet another article with no real sense of historical context is yet another disappointment.

  •' Mark juergensmeyer says:

    This essay makes an interesting point. I made a similar point in an article in the Islamic Monthly, saying that ISIS is more akin to Arab Spring than to al Qaeda since it taps into a mass antiauthoritarian popularism that can have a viciously destructive side.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    “Is the KKK the white American Christian reformation?” – It certainly could be. I’m not sure a literal biblical interpretation was the centerpiece of their “philosophy” – but certainl passages from the Bible sure did help bolster their legitimacy.

    “the Christian Knights of the Klan and how they have helped reinforce the Christian bigotry” – The KKK numbered in the millions back in the 1920’s and now may be in the couple of thousands. And while bigotry still exists, there is much less of it than there used to be. I don’t think it is fair to compare the current wide ranging crimes of ISIS with the past crimes of a diminishing organization with almost no current relevancy.

    I’ve seen you comment here a number of times, and RD lays significant criticism at a number of religious “actors”, but you only show up when they have a critique of Islam or how people act in the name of it. Its is an odd sensitivity that you don’t see with Hindus, Buddhists, or even most Christians.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    I am a Muslim, so that is my turf to defend. I am not an expert on Hinduism to say when someone has misspoke about their faith. What’s not fair is to take a renegade group of Arabs and call them a major religious force. The hype is racist. The KKK has left an enduring mark on white American culture. In the good old South, blacks are still stuck in poverty, getting sicker faster and dying faster than white people. Yet you have a the white racist GOP openly fighting to keep medicine and doctors away from the poor and disproportionately black. What’s not fair is that the racist bastion we call the Old South has not changed, yet you shake in your boots looking across at the other side of the world at a renegade group who lives between two countries in turmoil and the MSM keeps hollering about how they are coming to get us any day now…and debating how this is tied to Islam. Fair is we talk about the KKK’s religion, who it is related to their religion and how their racism has remained 50 years after MLK. I defend Muslims….almost exclusively from white Christian bigotry (the atheists are late to the hate game). Fifty years after all the blood and marches and riots….whites sure do love to look down on anyone not white Christian. THAT’S what not fair.

  •' Janfrans Zuidema says:

    Ed Simon doesn’t mention the iconoclasm of Muhammad during the occupation of Mecca (that still goes on). Muhammad destroyed religious artifacts of other religious groups and now ISIS does the same. Could there be a connection?

  •' DKeane123 says:

    “whites sure do love to look down on anyone not white Christian. THAT’S what not fair.”

    This is an interesting statement. While I have no issue with people with a different skin color (meet my wife), I do have a problem with ideas that are damaging to human wellness. So regardless of how you look, I would find you objectionable if you thought that homosexuals didn’t deserve equal rights (as an example). But you have now called every last white person a bigot just because of their skin color. This racist statement is odd from someone playing the oppressed card in every comment on this site.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    I have not called “every last white person a bigot.” That is running from what I have said. White American racism is a cancer that is alive well and thriving 50 years after Martin Luther King. That does not mean every single white person in the world is racist. It does mean that people like you use the gay thing as a ruse. Here you are running to fight for gay people, when most whites still have NOT accepted blacks as equals in America. No one says it, but I dare say, the easiest way to spot white racism is simply party affiliation. The GOP is now the white racist party. No one I know of is on a soap box fighting gays. In fact, the very fight you cite is the perfect example of special rights. Instead of saying, “anyone can marry any way they see fit,” you say gays only should have the right to marry. I am not obsessed with other people’s bedroom behavior. Nice if they don’t do it in the street. After that, I try not to use my imagination. We have the bigots and then we have the white deniers. Please don’t you be either.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    I disagree – that is exactly what you said with: “whites sure do love to look down on anyone not white Christian.”

    You know nothing about me and who I happen to “fight for” – stop making unfounded assumptions.

    Yes – I would agree the GOP is an issue. But it appears that your larger point is that until racism is no longer an issue in the US (I would state that it is a larger human issue, not just specific to America), that no American citizen, that isn’t Muslim, should comment on ISIS and their religious zealotry? Smacks a bit of censorship.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    ruse, red herring, straw man, more white hype and overstatement to make my statement false, when I said no such thing. Dude we are writing on the internet. Quote me. If I say “whites” that does not mean “all whites.” I never said all whites. I said and I say WHITES. Your hype and exaggeration is a white dodge. By the way, you can marry a black person as dark as night and still be a bigot. A bigot can have times of good treatment and the most progressive white person can have bigoted moments. Blacks and any color can be prejudiced, but it is many white Westerners who for hundreds of years have persecuted minorities of color. Instead of fake argument and denial, why don’t you get on board…get on the peace train. Right now Obama is our conductor. Just tell me you like Obama and that settles it with me…or you can start telling me how he’s a non Christian anti-Christ……

  •' DKeane123 says:

    Never said I married a black person – and again, you make assumptions about my politics.

    What do you think the chances are that you have unfounded prejudices?

  •' GregAbdul says:

    you are ducking. I am not an Arab….in our conversation, your matching me would be “all blacks are lazy…” You won’t say it because it shows white prejudice. Good for you. Now I am Muslim…to assume my religion needs fixing and you are not Muslim is more white prejudice. Whites are the ones who go around invading and occupying countries and who still fight tooth and nail to make sure blacks do not live in a state of equality in America. Whites are a special group when it comes to oppressing anyone not white and Christian in America. Now that does not mean every single white person. Many whites voted for Obama. LBL fought for and signed the Civil Right’s laws. I depend on good whites. There are cheap no good litmus tests and then there are good ones. if I go around in the night and practice serial murder, then I can say I am a big fan of the right to life can I? Now if you wish, we can sit here and play 50 questions with you continously trying to dodge and hide what you really feel or you can be honest and “Make It Plain.” You with us or ain’t ya’????

  •' DKeane123 says:

    I didn’t say you were an Arab.

  •' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    It is true that the Reformation did not lead directly to liberal democracy, but it was an essential, necessary precursor to it. The rejection of ecclesiastical authority and of corporatism, the emphasis on individual conscience and the individual’s capacity to interpret the Bible, and the overall conception of the relative sovereignty and dignity of the individual that followed, were all essential ingredients in the emergence of liberal democracy. Had Western Europe remained wholly Catholic, without the Reformation, it is exceedingly unlikely that liberal democracy ever would have emerged.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    Mr. DK, I don’t mean to be rude. What I said exactly is, when we go on and on about Da’esh and gay rights, we are ducking the evil right here in America. It’s like the 60s never stopped. Instead of the Viet Cong, we have Da’esh and we shake in our boots and talk about how they are trying to take over the world. The Viet Cong actually won. Now we are their allies. Chickenhawk W overthrew Saddam and Obama openly said Assad has to go. This has created the instability in which the Da’esh survive. In other words, it’s not religion that has created them. They are really a creation of failed US policy hawks. Obama talks about how the ruler of another country has to go, but then sits on his hands and says he won’t commit fighting forces. Common sense says, if you are not willing to remove a present head of state in another country, you don’t go around publicly saying he should be removed from office. It’s the biggest mistake he’s made. Right here in America, the racist whites of the south are fighting to keep medicine away from poor people. We have kids not getting a fair chance and trapped in failing underfunded schools, women being told what birth control their bosses will allow them to take and a roll back of the gains of the Civil Right’s movement….you know, the one led by the black preacher named Martin Luther King? The racist GOP is doing way more damage than Da’esh. They are doing their damage under a religious banner. Why the lack of analysis of how American Christians are backing the greedy white man’s party? You really think a band of renegades living on the borders of two countries we made unstable is more relevant than America’s 20% child poverty rate?

  •' DKeane123 says:

    You didn’t answer my question.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    the only question I saw was me asking you about Obama….yes…..all you have to do is like him and then yes, we can move on to the rest who are not Obamabots.

  •' Duck says:

    According to your logic that would make ISIS a relatively new movement that is simply going through birth pains but Arab culture has been around since the beginning of time, and fighting within themselves the entire time. ISIS is the result of a lack of ‘strong’ Arab leadership; children playing with guns. Only children destroy ancient irreplaceable artifacts in the 21st century, so denying their very own and ancient culture; a further sign of barbarism. ISIS says they are defending Islam when in fact they are a political movement who use religious rhetoric to mislead their own people. The Arabs have a right to an Islamic State, if indeed that’s what the majority want, but ISIS is not content with that. At its core they are an attack against the freedoms we enjoy in the West. We must not lose sight of this.

  • ISIS is the Islamic ‘Reformation’.

    I think there’s actually a lot of merit to this comparison. With their fixation on literalism, predestination, extreme duality, radical Salafists resemble no one so much as extreme Calvinists.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the tragedy of Islam is that it’s never produced its equivalent to Aquinas and the Scholastics (particularly their naturalism). It’s odd to think that Islamic thinkers like Avicenna and Averroes are more respected among Catholics than Muslims.

  •' Peter` Card says:

    The Reformation began as an intellectual struggle within the Catholic church. Luther was a contemporary megastar within the church, an avante-guard theologian, until he crossed the line from confronting corruption and challenging orthodoxy to defying the authority of the institution and denying its role as sole guarrantee of salvation, eventually substituting personal faith for spritual submission to the hierarchical priesthood. His contemporary protestant reformers followed similar trajectories. Luther himself thought that the key blow struck against the power of the Catholic church was the translation of the bible into the languages of the common people, making it directly accessible. In many ways, the Islamic world was way ahead of the game. Widespread literacy in Arabic meant that the Koran had always been directly accessible to them.
    Back in the 21st century, the wide-spectrum arseholes destroying ancient monuments in the Middle East, decapitating aid workers for our bemusement, abusing the the defenceless, have as much to do with the Reformation as nose-picking has to do with brain surgery.

  •' Judith Maxfield says:

    Rambling on: What did I just read? There are two things i’m getting from this article and mostly the responses. In reading the article, I must admit it got a bit hazy for me between what was in present time and what was past in regard to some main points. The subject matter is difficult. Will try again. Now, to the responses. This is all text language, (not “texting”). I’m interested in how language is used and how difficult it is to be utterly clear in one’s intent. What does this have to do with with the subject matter here? Looks like everything. So maybe reformation depends on whose reformation you’re talking about. I guess in the end of this, the responses became more interesting to me. I get accused (not here) of generalizing my ideas. To me, you’ve got to start somewhere, and then get on with it. So thanks everyone of confirming the diversity of language as culture we’re really living.

    P.S. Being in the visual arts, I do really grieve when the arts are destroyed because they are seen as dangerous. Its personal for me. I do believe when this happens, not only the past is lost, but the story it told is lost as the lesson for the future. That is the second underlying point of this article. (OK, generalizing again).

  •' GregAbdul says:

    hmmm….I don’t think much of Aquinas. Is there an official scale somewhere that says Muslim scholars are more or less than your idols? I think your comparisons are highly subjective and totally TOTALLY LACK MERIT.

  • A subjective comparison in an internet comment thread?

    Say it isn’t so!!!

  •' jfigdor says:

    Yeah. Pretending that the KKK wasn’t Christian isn’t helpful. The KKK was KKKristian, and ISIS is Islamic (that said, Obama might be right that it is smart for him and US diplomats to avoid calling it Islamic).

  •' Arbuthnaught says:

    Ad Fontes!
    This was a watch word of the Protestant Reformation. It meant to return to the original sources (to the original fountains) of the bible and not the encrustations and corruptions that had accumulated over the centuries..
    In the context of Islam, ISIS is exactly using Ad Fontes. ISIS is doing exactly what the prophet did. Murder, plunder, enslave your enemies, steal their wives etc.
    In Christianity, Ad Fontes mean returning to the example of Christ and the Apostles. Not cutting off the heads of your enemies

  • Why are Bush and Cheney, the people who put these people in the position they are in, not on trial in The Hague?


  •' CitizenWhy says:

    Iconoclasm is an age-old tendency in the Middle East. Its push is most familiar to westerners in the Iconoclasm battles among Christians.

  •' CitizenWhy says:

    Beacuse their strategy worked and is working. Their goal was not military victory but perpetual chaos in the Middle East. Why? … 1. Chaos would attract Islamic terrorists all over the world to the Middle East instead of having them active in the West … 2. A grim reminder/threat to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States not to abandon the petrodollar (more important than the actual oil) … 3. A reminder to the Arab Muslim countries, and some others, that they cannot be safe from rebels unless dependent on the USA … 4. Domestically, in the USA, to make the media b]narrative all about war and not about the domestic problems and the endless foreign intrigues caused by the Republicans, and to make it easier to gut the non-military portions of the US budget … 5. To reinforce the loyalty to the Republican party of religious conservatives in the USA. … 6. To mak ethe Europeans afraid of the US and submissive to its leadership.

  •' CitizenWhy says:

    The Reformation was not uniformly iconoclastic. The Reformation was not all calvinist. And the Calvinists were not all Iconoclasts. But yes, once you see something as blasphemous then you must take action against it, sometimes justifying violence against persons or, more often, property. The concept of blasphemy is not compatible with modern society.

  •' Nick says:

    Many of those who advocated a return to the example of Christ and the Apostles, were also pretty comfortable with the idea of executing their enemies:
    – e.g. the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant treatment of Anabaptists and other radicals like Servetus. Calvin explicitly argued – at length – that the execution of Servetus was consistent with Scripture and, ironically, advocated the decapitation of Servetus because it was a more merciful punishment than burning (which I suppose it was).

  • Interesting article, but the analogy is all wrong. The images destroyed by the Reformation were those of the exploiting and oppressive powerful Church that held both secular and religious authority. ISIS is destroying images of long past civilizations and peoples.

  • Obviously you have not studied the Islamic philosophers and poets who equal the best that Catholicism could ever offer such as Aquinas. Rumi outclasses Aquinas by far.

  • First of all, I don’t think so.

    Second of all, it’s a bit fatuous to look at these things in isolation anyway. Rumi may be of esoteric interest to a small cross-section of academics, but Aquinas inspired a movement (Scholasticism) that profoundly influenced Western culture and intellectual development.

    Indeed, his influence is felt to this very day.

  • Rumi is the most well known poet-philosopher in the world today, and his influence far outstrips that of Aquinas. Rumi is the best selling poet in the United States today.

  •' Spuddie says:

    It’s not the lack of Aquinas like scholars in service of religion and state entanglement which is the problem. It is a lack of voices against the religion/state combination. Not enough John Locke’s, William Paine’s or even David Hume’s. We don’t need Islamic reformation. We need a middle east age of enlightenment. Religion only behaves well when it has no other choices. In america it involved an enforced separation from the apparatus of political power.

  •' doc says:

    Amen. For a tolerant society to endure, intolerance must be discouraged (disallowed). The price of freedom is not blood, the price of freedom is tolerance.

  •' GeniusPhx says:

    bush signed to end the war in iraq. all obama had to do was get a status of forces agreement signed to keep un in the game. he couldnt do that.

  •' GeniusPhx says:

    It makes christians feel good to believe they are right about everything and any killing they have done is justified. But they have done their share of ‘convert or die’ whether in the 30 yrs war, the crusades, the religious war in early america or the slaughter of american indians for rejecting christianity. Before reformation the bible was never taken as literal and different sects had some harmony between them. Its a good thing our founders didnt believe any of it, they didnt believe in the miracles or the divinity of jesus. They just played along enough to create a secular godless constitution so the rest of us wouldn’t have to kill over a govt established religion.

  •' Arbuthnaught says:

    Junk history from first to last. The point is that the crusades were carried out by the illiterate, probably with only one in a thousand barely able to read and without an accurate bible between them. Hardly “Christian” in any sense of the word. JEFFERSON might not have believed in the miracles etc. but Jefferson was not the archetype of all the founders and held a minority view. The plain intent of the establishment clause then and it should be now, was no establishment of a national church like the Church of England in the US. That is what everyone thought until Hugo Black came along in 1947 with Everson V. Board of Education, a case also full of junk history.

  •' Arbuthnaught says:

    Well said. Another point is that the iconography of the pre-reformation catholic church was considered by the reformers as objects of superstition, veneration or worship and competing with the worship due only to the one true God.

  •' GeniusPhx says:

    you forget the amendments had to be ratified separate from the constitution by at least 9 colonies. it was not a minority view. at least 9 colonies had established religions at the time, the 1st didn’t touch the states (they didnt have the votes). But the everson decision was based on the 1st, the 14th amendments combined for the first time, as well as a study of the intent of the founders, mostly deists. a good book for the truth about the founders faiths is written by a christian, Stewart Mathew, called ‘nature’s god’. I’m sure its not what you were taught.

  •' Arbuthnaught says:

    Not forgetting anything. Not mostly Deists. Mostly orthodox. Deism was a minority view even among the elites. Event those then classified as Deists would today be considered very religious. Everson never should have been decided. We would all be better of if the court would have simply said that what happens at a local school is no concern of the federal government period. Black did use bad history. The last state church was not abolished until 1835. When Jefferson was president he was also superintendent of the DC schools. In that position he insisted the bible, not the Jefferson version, be used as a text book in the schools. The first congress, composed of those instrumental in adopting the bill of rights knew what it meant and their actions, votes and laws passed indicate that they could do all things short of establishing a national church. That was the plain meaning then, and it should be the plain meaning now unless changed by amendment.

  •' GeniusPhx says:

    it was changed by the 14th amendment.

  •' Arbuthnaught says:

    I reject that notion. While everyone should be treated equally and fairly, the left has used the 14th ammendment to rewrite the constitution in ways never contemplated by the framers or even the originators of the 14th ammendment. Re Everson, the federal government should stay out of all k-12 because it has no constitutional role in that area. Lacking standing, Everson, never should have even been in the federal courts. If there are issues of religion to be litigated in the public schools, would it be so bad to have to litigate under state constitutions, many of which are more liberal that the federal constitution?

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