The Stoic Traveler

"Wherever I go, it will be well with me."

10 October 2006

Remember Remember the 10th of October

Gentle Reader:

We find ourselves today on one of the great anniversaries of Western Civilization: the 1274th anniversary of the Battle of Tours, or Poitiers.
On this date in 732 A.D. Charles "The Hammer" Martel, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia and grandfather to Charlemagne, with twenty thousand men defeated a Muslim army four times his size. He halted the advance of the Islamic empire in Europe, effectively saving the remnants of Christian Europe, the Church of Rome, and protecting what would become the home of the Renaissance, and, ultimately, the Enlightenment.
The advance of Islam as a political or ruling force in eastern Europe would not, unfortunately, be stopped for another thousand years when the Turk was turned back from Vienna in the seventeenth century. There is, obviously, the case to be made that it has revived in the last decade as the Turk has resumed his invasion of Europe.

On Religious War
We in the West (by which I mean those countries sharing a common Greco-Roman-to-Enlightenment heritage*) are tremendously fortunate. We have not known religious war, truly horrific religious war, since the Treaties of Muenster and Osnabruck (aka the Peace of Westphalia) and the English Restoration in the mid-seventeenth Century. At the Peace of Westphalia, all the parties to the Thirty Years' War agreed to the Peace of Augsburg (1555), which established the principle of cuius regio, eius religio (whose rule, his religion) in the Holy Roman Empire. In other words, it created an early form of official toleration that had not been seen since the fall of Rome. Of course, this toleration applied only to Christian sects (Catholic, Lutheran, and, after 1648, Calvinist).** Essentially, differences in theology were no longer a viable casus belli. State greed, which has usually been the actual cause of animosity, could finally be the official cause of animosity. Such a model of Christian charity, those medieval and early modern monarchs...
Wars of religion seem to fall into three main categories: internal wars(war of theology), external wars(war of conversion, or crusade), and religio/political struggles. A war of theology is a battle within a religious group. The Thirty Years' War, which was a war among Christian sects (Catholic v. Protestant) qualifies as a theological war. A war of conversion or extermination, a crusade or jihad***, is a struggle between two religious groups.# The Christian crusades and the wars of Mahomet qualify as external wars. The modern Salafi or Wahabbi jihadists qualify as combatants in an external war. Finally, there is the religio-political struggle. Most wars of religion qualify as a political struggle plus the internal or external question. These contests are an attempt to answer the joint question of "who rules?" and "who has the divine authority?" In religiously-oriented societies, such as the Islamic empire and medieval Europe, these questions are often inseparable.
Since the death of Mahomet, Islam has been engaged in an internal religio-political struggle: the Sunni/Shi'a split. There has not yet been a Peace of Augsburg, or a Peace of Westphalia to resolve this problem. There likely will not be one until the Moslem world fights itself to exhaustion, as the Christian did. What should happen is that the west just leave the Arabs alone to figure out their problems. Instead, we have antagonized them with the installation of a Jewish state, supported ruthless dictators, and generally created prime situations for state failure, all in the pursuit of oil.
Should have just invaded Venezuela.
I've gone on twice as long as I'd intended and not covered half the material I'd planned. But my tendonitis is kicking in, and so, Gentle Reader, I leave you with this thought:

"Very few faiths, given sufficient political power, actually practice what they preach."
So tonight at your revels, drink up a toast. To the Hammer: may his victory not be in vain.

*Yes, I'm obsessed with the enlightenment. Get over it.
**From an official, or any, standpoint, it still sucked to be Jewish.
***There are various meanings for jihad, including a struggle with oneself. I mean here the war of conversion.
# I include atheist and pagan as a "religious group." Most atheists can be described as religiously so.