In the 1930’s Hilaire Belloc published a book called The Great Heresies. In this work he made some interesting predictions about the resurgence of Islam and a rekindling of the conflict between Islam and the West. Given the world’s decades-long run now with Islamic-inspired terror, murder and war, I thought it fitting to share Belloc’s thoughts from almost 80 years ago. The below excerpt from his book is edited down significantly for length.
“Half a lifetime ago it was taken for granted everywhere that the last remnants of Mohammedan power in Europe would disappear. Everyone was waiting for the end of Islam, on this side of the Bosphorus at least; while in Syria, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia it was losing all political and military vigour. After the Great War, what was left of Mohammedan power, even in hither Asia, was only saved by the violent quarrels between the Allies The great duel between Islam and Christendom seemed at last to have been decided in our own day.
But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.
May not Islam rise again? In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has never departed. It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning adhesion of all the millions between the Atlantic and the Indus and further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask the question in the sense ‘Will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will shake off the domination of Europeans – still nominally Christian – and reappear again as the prime enemy of our civilization?’ For my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically paralyzed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable.
The particular quality of Mohammedanism, regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. The causes of this vitality are very difficult to explore, and perhaps cannot be reached. For myself, I should ascribe it in some part to the fact that Mohammedanism being a thing from the outside, a heresy that did not arise from within the body of the Christian community but beyond its frontiers, has always possessed a reservoir of men, newcomers pouring in to revivify its energies. But that cannot be a full explanation. Whatever the cause be, Mohammedanism has survived, and vigorously survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It still converts pagan savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time some European eccentric, who joins its body. But the Mohammedan never becomes a Catholic. No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morals, its organized system of prayer, its simple doctrine.
In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom. The recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic – but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past – one might say that they are blinded by it.
Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it – we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines – the very structure of our society is dissolving. In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of patriotism. But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are making for the destruction of our culture, have a likelier future before them than our old-fashioned patriotism.
In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral doctrine. The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic power, may be delayed – but I doubt whether it can be permanently postponed. That culture happens to have fallen back in material application; there is no reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our equal in all those temporal things which now alone give us our superiority over it – whereas in Faith we have fallen inferior to it. There are signs enough in the political heavens today of what we may have to expect from the revolt of Islam at some future date – perhaps not far distant.”