The massacre at a French satirical magazine probably has a lot less to do with religion than the event suggests.
The investigation probably will show that the two gunmen and an associate are marginal individuals ready to cling to the Prophet Mohammed as an excuse. They most certainly are uneducated and desperately trying to prove they are not second-rate.
A couple of gunmen with AK-47 rifles could do a lot more damage to French society than killing cartoonists and editors.
Yet the event does point out the gap between the Muslim faith and the modern world. By blindly believing everything in the religion’s holy book, the faithful are constricted in their world view.
Islam also does not tolerate theological discussions. A Westerner may ask “Did Jesus exist?” Followers of Islam are unlikely to question that the Prophet made nightly excursions to heaven on a winged horse, however unlikely.
The penalty for questioning the Muslim faith still is death. Leviticus 20:13 in the Old Testament prescribes death for homosexuality, but only the deranged in the West interpret this as a modern law. Muslims still sentence those guilty of apostasy to death when they can.
There are statistics that show many western Christians do not really believe the faith they embrace. They learned it in childhood and began to question it in high school or college. Similar surveys in the Muslim world would be impractical.
Yet even in the West religious belief is intertwined with politics, despite constitutional barriers. A possible repeat
U.S. presidential candidate rejects evolution and says the Earth is just some 10,000 years old.
Science is continuing to clash even with the most basic Western religious beliefs.
Israeli archaeologists, despite years of attempts, have never found evidence that thousands of followers of Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years. And despite pilgrimages and countless ceremonies, other archaeologists say Bethlehem did not exist as a community during the time of Christ.
Eventually the Qur’an will be subject to intense academic scrutiny, and the book will be revealed as a Seventh century effort to establish a political domain that should not be taken too literally today.
The problem is that many Muslims still see their religious duty as spreading their faith-based government to western lands, by force if necessary.
There are parallels: The Black legend of the conquering Spanish in the New World and the decision of the Pilgrims to execute a servant for violating a rule set down in Leviticus.