The experience of reading The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran brought to mind two other “radical” texts, each exploring a different kind of faith.
The first is Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties, the classic critique of the New Left by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Destructive Generation is a dense book that overwhelms with the sheer number, variety, and intensity of its facts and arguments. One completes it almost exhausted. Spencer’s Infidel’s Guide produces a similar effect. The author packs his text with so many quotes from the Koran, the Hadith, and prominent Muslim commentators that it’s profoundly difficult to argue with him. (Which perhaps explains why the usual anti-Spencer retort is to slur him as a bigot and not bother to even quote him.)
The second is this year’s Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) by agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. The new book by the author of Misquoting Jesus and God’s Problem provided a more thoughtful alternative to critiquing religion than the Christopher Hitchens/Richard Dawkins militant atheism.
Spencer’s approach to the Koran is identical to Ehrman’s to the New Testament. He’s a nonbeliever who seeks to look at a holy text critically, examining how it was made and what the text itself actually says – not how it’s allegedly divine and infallible. Yet why is Spencer the “bigot” of the two? Why is it acceptable to look at Christianity critically but “racist” to do so for Islam? Why have we built an advantage to our enemies right into the fabric of our “politically correct” culture?
And it’s here where we return to understanding Spencer as a radical. Because Spencer is not just a radical intellectual – willing to take an idea to its root no matter how maligned the left-dominated intellectual culture might make him. He’s also a radical activist. Consider another of the American Heritage Dictionary’s definitions of radical: “One who advocates fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions.”
Possessed of the conservative’s understanding of human nature and loyalty to individual liberty he knows the only way one can both effectively and morally change society is to change people’s ideas. And so the “fundamental or revolutionary change” that he advocates is a revision in the way Americans understand Islam.
Let us support him as he pursues this intellectual revolution. Our very society is dependent upon its success.