Typewriter: Olivetti Valentine.

To make the article searchable and quotable, the text is reprinted below.

In two centuries, the Islamic East will be proverbially tolerant, and in fact will often be sneered at by self-identified conservatives for its indiscriminate liberalism.

Why does Dr. Boli make that seemingly unlikely prediction? Because he has lived long enough to know that the inalterable facts of world politics are quite alterable indeed.

Think of the Islamic fundamentalism of today, and then consider the analogous phenomenon in northern Europe and North America: Calvinism and Puritanism.

Dr. Boli hastens to explain that he does not mean the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of today, which, while they found their theology on Calvin, seem to found their works on Christ. He means the bigoted, persecuting, and frequently deadly Puritanism of the 1600s, whose resemblances to the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist organizations of today are striking.

English Puritanism infected North America, setting up a colony in New England where the Puritans were free to humiliate, torture, and kill anyone they suspected of insufficient religious enthusiasm. Convinced that most of the world was going to hell, the New England Puritans made their own world a hell in order to assure themselves of a place in heaven.

Two hundred years later, large numbers of them had become Universalists, whose defining dogma is that everyone is going to heaven.

The “New England liberals” against whom the Bible-Belt conservatives rail so loudly are the descendants of those bigoted and persecuting Puritans who killed witches at Salem. The Scarlet Letter was written, not by an appalled outsider, but by one of their own offspring.

The current surge in Islamic fundamentalism no more a necessary consequence of Islam than Puritanism was a necessary consequence of Christianity. Both are simply facts of history. Yes, you will find many Christian commentators quoting the Koran to prove that Islam must always be bigoted and persecuting, and actually telling Muslims who say that Islam stands for tolerance that they do not understand their own religion. These commentators may be dismissed without a hearing. They are making exactly the same argument that Muslims might make if they insisted that Christians believe in genocide and infant murder, because it is in their holy book. Do you not believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? Have you not read Joshua and Judges? And Numbers and Deuteronomy and I and II Samuel?

Already there are millions of young Muslims who believe in classical liberal democracy—not as an alternative to Islam, but as a natural consequence of their Islamic belief. They are beaten down by the puritans in power, and by roving gangs of religious thugs just like the ones who roamed through England when Cromwell reigned. But Cromwell no longer reigns; Geneva is no longer a Calvinist theocracy; New England is a hotbed of dogmatic tolerance. We may not live to see it, but the same thing will happen in the darkest corners of the Islamic world.