The two militant world views afflicting the world right now share a fundamental assumption about reality but arrive at diametrically opposed responses to it.
Islam and secularism are assertive, confident movements. They agree that human beings have no intrinsic purpose or meaning.
Islam believes that God is a pure will with no obligation to humanity. Islam’s dominant theology, ultimately articulated by Al-Ghazali in the 12th century, preaches that God destroys and recreates all reality in every moment. There is no unfolding plan that involves any of us as unique beings; God has no obligation to anybody or anything.
Secularism, stated honestly, believes that we are accidents of nature. Events have no ultimate coherence and are only what we experience in the moment.
Thus the cosmos holds no love for us. There is nothing we can expect and nothing to restrain us from what our urgent thoughts and feelings dictate in the moment.
More deadly is Islamic and secular functional agreement that there is nothing to bind us together but action against whomever we perceive to be threatening or offensive.
For Islam, the only real unity is common action against all that is not in submission to the perfect will of Allah (pretty much everything, as God told Hagar about her son Ishmael, He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen (Genesis 16:12).
For secularism, the only real unity is effort to control or remove those things that threaten the subjective pleasure of the present, which is all we can know and have.
In the case of the Orlando shootings, the Islamic explanation is incomprehensible to most of us as Westerners. It would be something like, “God made the finger move. God made the trigger pull. God made the powder ignite. God made the bullet spin through the gun’s barrel. God made the bullet move through the air. God made the bullet strike X. God made X’s heart stop. God made X die.” (Repeat except “God makes the bullet strike Y. God makes but a small nick in Y’s skin. God lets Y live.)” Etc. etc. etc.
The secular explanation is obvious. “We are free to do what we want, but some people will react to environmental factors beyond their control and want to do violence that deprives others of pleasure. So we must remove the means of violence and deprivation, therefore gun control.”
The weird dance is this. Islam and secularism meet in agreement that the universe holds no ultimate compassion or knowable consequence for humanity (or for anything that exists, for that matter).
But Islam responds with violent spasms of destruction, seeking to knock down vain human creativity that dares to usurp the will of God. This is why the Taliban throws acid in the face of a girl who goes to school, or why Nigeria’s Islamic terror front bears a name that means “ban Western education,” or why America realized too late that destabilizing Islamic autocracy does not result in democratic “nation building,” but IEDs.
Secularism responds with institutions on steroids. Build more systems, especially government, to buffer people and their pleasures against an uncaring cosmos. Much of this is beneficial, as in public policies that eradicate plague-potential diseases. But eventually the sublime meets the ridiculous, and we are told what we can or can’t think, write or speak. Secular versions of burdensome old cultic piety emerge: Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch (Colossians 2:21). Social engineering. 5 Year Plans. Cultural Revolutions. Reeducation camps.
And so Islam sets off bombs in random places to show that no human endeavor should stand against the pure will that is Allah, while secularism pushes a button, watches the drone launched missile’s on-screen descent into the distant, threatening target, then knocks off at 5 pm to party down at the club.
One other assumption that Islam and secularism share is that Christianity is a blight on the planet. And they share a common response – both can tell you everything that’s ever been wrong with their common enemy. They both work hard to rid the world of Christianity’s nonsensical ideas.
Like Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (I John 4:8).