Without endorsing the conclusions, I introduce you today to some contrarian thinking about Islam and whether it's on the ascendancy or in decline.
It will be awhile before I can get to a new book called How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too), by David P. Goldman. But I want you to know about it and to have a chance to read and react to this review and commentary about the book.
Well, I suppose all world religions are dying in the sense that eventually the sun will burn out. But just because there is demographic information that looks problematic for Islam going forward is no reason to use the over-the-top term "dying" about a faith that has been around 1,400 years or so.
Part of the author's argument, as I get it, is that educated Muslim women around the world no longer are having babies at a rate that would sustain the growth of Islam. Such demographic information is interesting to ponder -- and may well foretell a less-vibrant future for any religion experiencing such dynamics. But religions grow and shrink, wax and wane, for many, many reasons, and I'd be reluctant to condemn Islam to death on the basis of this statistic alone.
Still, as I say, I haven't had a chance to read the book and the author may make a stronger case than I'm imagining.
At any rate, I wanted you to be aware of this contrarian thinking and to give some thought as to what it might mean not only for Islam but for other world faiths that might be affected by a rise or decline of the world's Muslim population.
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PRAYING IN PIECES FOR PEACE
The Assisi interfaith gathering for peace this week was intriguing for several reasons. 1. Interfaith connections are to be encouraged in nearly all cases. 2. Pope Benedict XVI was there this time. As a cardinal he didn't show up at this event in 1986 because he disapproved of prayers from various traditions all being said in the same place and time. 3. Some atheists and agnostics were there, representing a growing segment of society. 4. Benedict's instincts about each faith maintaining its own integrity and not dissolving into a mushy syncretism are right. But unlike the pope, I see nothing wrong with members of various traditions being present for and experiencing the way people of different traditions pray. Indeed, I find that experience enlightening and strengthening of my own faith.