Semantics, Shemantics: The Decline of Western Civilization?

When you hear someone espousing the importance of Judeo-Christian ethics, what exactly does that mean? The term “Judeo-Christian” seems like it’s become a synonym for “Western” or more specifically, “post-industrial American,” but really, how accurate is that?

Gene Expression
posts that it’s a totally bogus term, since Judaism has a heckuva lot more in common with Islam that it does with modern Christianity. A moderate Muslim, Mr. Gene Expression throws down a highly informed history of the split between Orthodox and Reform Judaism and how abandoning much of the legalities of the Talmud allowed Jews to participate more fully in Western culture while retaining their religious and cultural identities. He predicts “there is a strong chance that in this century we will see a ‘Reform Islam’ coalesce in the West which is analogous to Reform Judaism, an adherence to a minimalist Koranically inspired religion which gives short-shrift to the relevance of the Hadiths in the modern world. In this way, there will be a dyad of Judeo-Christian-Islamic and Judeo-Islamic.”

Ultimately, he admits, it’s just about language, but unexpectantly subjective subject matter for a science blog, eh?

13 thoughts on “Semantics, Shemantics: The Decline of Western Civilization?

  1. If you’re an atheist Razib, why bother with your blog post on Gene Expression? Why bother with the lengthy academic discourse? Why have you even bothered to have learned all this
    (your erudition on the subject is rather
    impressive)? Forgive my comment, but I reject your assertion about atheism – no offense.
    And keep researching this subject – there’s more to Judaism and the hareidim than is addressed by academic philosophy.

  2. Why have you even bothered to have learned all this

    i’m interested in animal behavior. humans are animals, so i’m interested in their behavior.

  3. Why bother? I think Razib’s pursuit of knowledge that some may see as not immediately useful to him is admirable. His personal beliefs about religion and G-d are irrelevant to that fact. Personally, I agree with much of what he put forward. Yes, his knowledge of more than 3,000 years of Jewish history, culture and religion is limited, but name one person (outside of a learned rebbe, perhaps) who is so fully versed in these issues as to never get anything wrong. As a Jew, I think it is important that non-Jews try to understand us and that we try to understand them. The stereotypes that have led to the deaths of millions of Jews over the centuries were born in ignorance and, hopefully, will die in wisdom.

  4. Heck Razib, you know more than I do. And I really want to believe in your vision of a moderate Muslim revolution of sorts – the only Muslims I know are just, y’know, regular people and are appalled by the small majority that seems to have hijacked (literally) their religion and culture.

  5. And I really want to believe in your vision of a moderate Muslim revolution of sorts

    well, the ‘revolution’ is contingent upon various parameters. in the united states muslims are middle class, multi-ethnic and regionally dispersed. that makes for easier & necessary accommodation with the majority mores. judaism and catholicism both ‘protestanized’ in the united states in their outlooks, and i would not be surprised if islam does the same. it might be different in europe, in part because most european nations don’t have a history of a multi-confessional religiously plural environment bound together by a common ‘civic religion.’

    the only Muslims I know are just, y’know, regular people and are appalled by the small majority that seems to have hijacked (literally) their religion and culture.

    well, i tend to stay away from terms like ‘hijacked.’ as an atheist i don’t have much interest in assuming that one islam (or judaism or christianity) is necessarily the true islam or not. i am interested in what is good for western culture, broadly speaking. islam steeped in sharia and predicated on social segregation from the kuffar majority is not good for the west. i am less concerned with the muslim world because i believe that the cultural evolution that occurs there will take a different track than that which will occur in the west, just as 19th century judaism in yemen evolved very differently from judaism in 19th century germany.

  6. Razib:
    I don’t accept your assertion of atheism.
    If you were, you’d stay away from religion
    as an academic subject/hobby.
    Secondly, as long as Saudi Arabia exists as the isolated capital of Islam, free to function in its politicized version of religion, and as a state which for all intents and purposes controls and regulates Islam, I don’t think Islam will go anywhere. A Western-style religious reformation, if one does take place, will be peripheral and ancillary to the mainstream religion that emanates from Mecca.
    Lastly, where peace-loving vs jihad warring
    Moslems are concerned, I assume there is a huge grass roots support for radical Islam,
    and just among young Moslems.

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