November 7, 2005 § 10 Comments

Mark Shea correctly points out that there are few (if any) things that we can denounce as “pure evil”. One of his frequent contexts in this observation is the religion of Islam. But we have to be careful about the premeses which underly this sort of observation. The contention that few things are purely 100% evil often itself rests on nominalist (and thus false) premeses.

There is a difference between saying that Islam is categorically evil (which is true) and saying that everything that every Moslem believes is 100% pure evil (which is false). When everyone is a nominalist we just have one error competing with another: to a nominalist there is no such thing as categorical evil, there are just things with greater or lesser evil densities. Thus the fixation (typically shared by both sides in discussions on Mark’s blog) on whether a thing is or is not pure evil, as if the question of pure evil were relevant or even particularly coherent.

Contra the nominalist, it is true that one cannot be a Moslem without believing in and having some degree of loyalty to evil things. The reason this is true is because Islam-qua-Islam is categorically (but not “a set containing only”) evil.

One of Mark’s commenters writes:

Yes, Islam is a “religion of the Book,” and like Protestantism, there are many different “versions” of it.

That doesn’t mean that “protestant” as a category has no meaning whatsoever, though. A protestant is a person who attempts to be a Christian while simultaneously rejecting the Catholic Church.

Islam is an objective thing, independent of what any of us – or any Moslem, for that matter – thinks about it. A Moslem is someone who has some degree of loylaty to (that is, faith in) Islam. And if a person has a degree of loyalty to Islam, then that person has a degree of loyalty to something which is categorically evil. Purity – that is, the density of particularly evil doctrines over a given group of doctrines within Islam – is irrelevant.

Of course we all have attachments to things which are categorically evil. To the extent my attachment to greed is weak, I am not a particularly good miser. And in this sense it is quite true that a Moslem who is not committed to Jihad is not a particularly good Moslem. (Though of course good here is used as a measure of loyalty to a thing independent of that thing’s objective moral goodness).


§ 10 Responses to Nominislamalism

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Is every faith, other than the Catholic one, also, like Islam, categorically evil, simply for not being Catholic?

  • William Luse says:

    Seems to me that there can be categories within the category.

  • zippy says:

    And the particular question addressed by my post is whether “I am a Moslem but I reject Jihad” is intelligible, or if it involves a nominalist rejection of categories by allowing the person claiming to be a Moslem to define by gratuitous assertion what it is to be a Moslem.On the broader question of whether “error” and “evil” are synonyms, I would tentatively think not (though I might be convinced otherwise I suppose). As a particular judgement I think it is correct to say that Jihad is evil, and also that Jihad is an essential part of Islam as an objective matter.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I’m not certain that you can defend the notion that jihad is categorically evil.If Islam is categorically evil, it is so because it denies the Trinity and blasphemes Jesus Christ on several different counts.Jihad can mean either the internal struggle of the individual *against* evil, or the *external* struggle of Islam against the perceived evils of the world. Each of these definitions has its Christian analogue, so I can’t find jihad to be categorically evil.

  • Tom says:

    I’d say error is always <>an<> evil, since asserting as true something that is false demonstrates that the asserter’s intellect lacks something it ought to have.But to be in error doesn’t strike me as a moral evil in itself.

  • Im so glad people like Tom and Zippy can identify evil for us protestants “trying to be christians”. Who needs prayer or the Holy Spirit when I can come here and find out what truth is.

  • William Luse says:

    It is a handy resource, isn’t it?

  • Islam is not categorically evil.There is no statement of the magisterium of the Catholic Church on which to base this absurd and outrageous claim.I’m not sure Zippy understands what Jihad is. To some Mulisms it’s what Zippy would call “Just War”. To others it means the spiritual struggle for holiness. The two are worlds apart.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>Islam is not categorically evil.<>I think my gratuitous assertion is true, and yours is false.<>There is no statement of the magisterium of the Catholic Church on which to base this absurd and outrageous claim.<>The set of all true things is a superset of the set of all dogmas of the Catholic Church.

  • […] we reject the constant distraction of focusing on tactics and actually pay attention to the ideology and culture driving the behavior, the terrorists will have […]

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