Read some newspapers, national periodicals, or internet news sites trumpeted by “trusted” media outlets and the casual reader could very well come away with the notion that America is being overwhelmed by religious extremists of the Christian variety.  Witness judges who tack copies of the Ten Commandments on their courtroom walls, or pastors and priests with the temerity to speak of the Constitution’s guarantee of an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to life movement in the same breath, and then sit back and wait for the hoots of derision to explode from the pens of editorialists and the mouths of talking heads.  Or witness how a public school down south would dare to conduct a graduation ceremony with a cross lurking auspiciously somewhere in the background. Gasp! Shriek! (Hold on a moment while I wail and tear out my hair at the unimaginable apostasy and affront to secular humanism).  And forget about trying to teach creationism alongside the current scientific dogma of evolution.  If it were attempted I’m sure some offended citizen would speed dial the ACLU hotline and an advocate would be filing an injunction faster than you could say Genesis.

Now, I’m sure some of you are sitting there scratching your heads with eyes wide and rolling in disbelief and mumbling to yourself that you thought this site was about books. Well, it is about books and literature. I’m just pointing out that in my opinion, more than a few intellectuals, academics and a goodly number of journalists seem to savage prominent displays of Judeo-Christian faith while giving an entirely different brand of religiosity a pass, if you will. Call it a casualty of our PC (politically correct) culture.

And what is this brand of religiosity to which I refer?  Is it science as humanity’s newest god and its narrow-minded exclusiveness of its practitioners who espouse science and the attainment of knowledge above all else?  Is it secular humanism and its quest for moral fulfillment through reasoning, ethics and justice absent God or religion?  Yes, and no, but neither is actually the topic of today’s blog post.  What I’m referring to is the brand of Islam currently being exported by Iran.

Before I go any further, I would like to fill in a little background as to what prompted this blog post and consequently, the reading and review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Twelfth Imam.  There’s a growing sense in cultures around the world that the apocalypse is right around the corner. Secular humanists are not immune to the alarmism with shouts of man’s imminent demise through global warming and global cooling, streaking meteors, massive earthquakes and tsunamis.  Merely pick a natural disaster and apply.  We Christians have our books of the Bible that speak of the end times, most specifically, the Book of Revelations, though I refute this May 21, 6:00 pm fad making its rounds as unscriptural and unsupported by the Bible (No one knows the day or hour: Matthew 24:36) . Islam is no different.  They have their apocalyptic messiah as well.

If you have been paying any attention the past thirty years to world events, and specifically, the Middle East (aside from the first and second wars in Iraq), you may have noticed that the fundamentalist regime of Iran is not friendly to western culture in the least. As a matter of fact, the official line is one of direct hostility exemplified by boisterous proclamations of its desire to annihilate Israel, and of course, America. And for good measure throw in the regime’s dedication to the financing, arming and training of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the resident despot of Syria, Bashir Assad.

The current figurehead for anti-western sentiment is embodied in Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  A fiery orator with populist leanings, Ahmadinejad makes no bones about his desire to hasten the return of Shiite Islam’s messiah, the Mahdi, also known as the 12th Imam.  In fact, in Ahmadinejad’s first speech to the United Nations, he took to the global stage in New York City and prayed out loud for the hasty return of the hidden imam. The underpinnings of this messianic yearning for the Mahdi is that he is expected to return before the Day of Judgment to lead the righteous against the forces of evil. Now whom does Ahmadinejad consider the forces of evil to be?

To answer this I suggest letting Joel Rosenberg entertain you with his latest splendidly researched and thought-provoking thriller, The Twelfth Imam.  Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author, takes the reader inside the messianic Mahdi movement of Shiite dominated Iran.  The main character of the novel, David Shirazi, is an Iranian-American of Shiite extraction that is initially recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda cells in Europe and Pakistan.  Rumblings from within Iran of a mysterious religious cleric claiming to be the messiah, coupled with the regime’s relentless and secretive pursuit of nuclear power prompt Shirazi’s reassignment:  Infiltrate Iran and gather information on Iran’s nuclear facilities and disrupt its nuclear weapons program before it’s too late.

There was a lot to like about this book.  It was entertaining, relevant to current events and did a fabulous job of simplifying the complex and mystical aspects of Shiite end-times theology.  Rosenberg also demonstrated a deft touch in extrapolating on the geo-political import of Shiite eschatology, an area this blogger and reviewer was woefully deficient.  In sum, this novel was one of the best fiction/suspense political thrillers I’ve had the joy to read this year.  Pick up a copy and enjoy.


  1. Asil Dance

    I agree with just about everything Joe wrote above. Our PC western culture has indeed gone to absurd lengths to “protect” its populations from religious or spiritual devotion.

    However, I do take great exception to, and umbrage with, one particular comment. Suggesting that “creationism” is somehow on par with modern theories or models of evolution in terms of empirical results and explanatory power is a slap in the face of all scientifically literate individuals.

    Creationism is not an alternative to Darwinism; creationism is not falsifiable. Science is based on the premise that it has predictive power and constantly refines our understanding of the world around us. It is not some nebulous. incoherent attempt to shove a certain brand of religion on our children and call it an alternative to actual science… you know, science, that process of acquiring the type of knowledge and technological achievement (kinda like medicine and computers and airplanes, etc.) that was made possible through, and only through, the scientific method.

    Epistemology is not a joke, folks. Hellfire, if Joe’s argument is correct here, we’d better save some equal time for the article of faith that the world balances on a tortoise’s shell.

    In sum, religion and science, Christianity and Darwinism, are not mutually exclusive beasties. Therefore, please don’t insult the intelligence of your readers by suggesting otherwise. Faith has its realm, but so does reason and logic. To an objectively thinking person,they are in harmony, not discord.

  2. Joe

    Asil, whoever insulted your intelligence? And this response is not meant to denigrate or condemn but to point out that we both have faith, albeit in different arenas. It’s hard to believe we’re going down this same tired road as we’ve debated and discussed it ad nauseam on more than one occasion, and agreeing to respect the other and their point of view. But here we go again.

    Scientists and their adherents (I’m talking about those who lambast others who dare disagree with their theories) are not the only intelligent persons who employ logic. Now, for the sake of argument and debate, let me presume that you have faith in science and the scientific methods used to arrive to support prevailing scientific truths. (As an aside, I do agree that the scientific community has undoubtedly made some impressive, monumental leaps over the last two hundred years, and I do not abhor scientific advances. The scientific community has done many a wondrous feat for the advancement of humanity, but let’s stick with Darwinism and evolution)

    In my scientifically challenged opinion, there is some proof and some validity to the theory of evolution, albeit on a mircoevolutionary scale as opposed to the macro. What could I mean by that assertion?

    Science has yet to recreate macroevolution, or perfect creationism in the scientific lab for that matter. By macroevolution, I mean the kind that turned a piece of dust into an ameoba, into a tadpole, into a frog, into a reptile that slithered out of the primordial sea, into a monkey and then into a man, all over the course of a few hundred million years, give or take a few hundred million years. Not exactly precise in scientific terms or methodology. Can this “macroevolution” be recreated in a lab?

    I understand that some species do evolve. Moths, butterflies, a grizzly bear as opposed to black bear as opposed to a polar bear, depending upon climate, etc. And people too. Northern Europeans as opposed to the Mediterranean, Pigmies and Eskimos, but couldn’t this be adaptation as opposed to macroevolution? Or is adaptation identical, scientifically speaking, to evolution?

    As I understand it, macroevolution or Darwinism places its faith in species changing from one to another. Now, was it not Charles Darwin himself who said that scientists would be discovering millions of transitional species in excavations around the globe, also known as the missing link? The link is still missing. Or has it been definitively found?

    Simply put, being Christian means trusting Jesus, and not a bunch of scientists. Just as those who believe that blind fate over millions and billions of years made our universe, insects, animals and people through evolution, I trust that the Bible is true and that God created this universe. Both of us have to have some level of faith in what we believe. True?

    And haven’t we went over this at least a dozen times in our rambling debates? Sigh. I miss those debates, and judging by the tenor of your post, so do you:) Anyhow, the subject of the post was not evolution versus creationism, but Shiite Islam’s Twelfth Imam as presented by Joel Rosenberg. Good read. Want to borrow it?

  3. georgie

    I find the current teaching paradigm to be intellectually dishonest at least and quite possibly surreptitiously dubious in nature at worst. All matter of things have a context whether it is the singularity leading to the big bang or the history behind the big bang. Acknowledgement of the fact that any reaction to produce the explosion from singularity requires a catalyst (a match strike)is frequently skipped and or mocked in classes. The striking history behind the big bang theory is glazed over if not buried as well. Father Georges Lemaitre is most commonly given credit for putting together the theoretical mathematics and physics from the origins of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity for the proof of the big bang. Interestingly, this discovery was lauded by the Vatican as the smoking gun for creationism…Facts such as these can easily be taught with proper context just as scientific design and Darwinism could be as well. Notice I said could be…Asil: Do you trust me to teach the children these subjects without an agenda? Joe: Do you trust me to teach these subjects without inclusion of my own cynicism or biting sarcasm leading the argument? Neither of you should. If you want the subject to taught to your satisfaction then teach it at home. Origins of man and universe are ethereal subjects that have no necessity in the public classrooms as there isn’t an application needed for the public good. There are so many more basics to cover before you get to that point and our schools are failing to deliver. So why…please tell me why we need to dive into these subjects in public school at all? Do you know your chemistry periodic table? What is the quadratic formula? Haiku vs iambic pentameter? Logic, computing, Greek, Roman, Western civilizations……………Why aren’t there private schools like christian schools for the spiritually challenged? Why not Our Lady of the Atheist or Learning Centers for the Politically Correct and Morally Ambiguous? Are these just fancy names for public schools?

  4. Joe

    Fine points, Georgie. I get your drift.

  5. Asil Dance

    Joe and Georgie,

    So, gentlemen, does that mean the tortoise gets equal time? What about all the other creation myth cycles the world over? After all, to be perfectly fair, it would seem that no faith should be left out on this issue, no matter how silly or antiquated its notion of physical reality might be (or might have been for so-called “dead” religions), i.e dependent upon a tortoise or Atlas or Isis or Zeus or aliens or pixies or theoretical entity whose existence has no predictive power and cannot be proven wrong.

    Did that sound frivolous? It wasn’t meant to be. I expressly admit that the scientific method will likely destroy our species with the contingent knowledge it uncovers, i.e. how nukes work. Yet, that fact alone does not relegate science itself into a sort of faith or religion.

    As stated before, religious beliefs, by their very nature, are unfalsifiable. You cannot prove either way that Jesus was the actual son of God by resort to the scientific method. In fact,IMHO, it’s errant nonsense to think such a sacred detail could be verified in any objective manner, by any causation-based formulation capable of being successfully repeated by others not of that same faith.

    Science, on the other hand, is uniquely, exquisitely, actively falsifiable. If it wasn’t, then, yes, science itself would indeed be just another system or body of faith.

    This is not an example of circular reasoning. The notion of duplication of experimental results is the key because the outcome is not dependent on whether you are a Zen Buddhist or a Roman Catholic or a secular humanist. When ya walk off a cliff, the physical results of the “theory” of gravity, as currently understood by physics, will be the same: splat…

    This same reasoning does not apply to faith in a just and compassionate Deity. In that scenario, the outcome of your religious reasoning and content of your faith necessarily will be dependent upon your creed and life experiences.

    Ya know, I am sorry, and I really don’t mean to be truculent nor pedantic, but it seems that neither of you too gentlemen understand the difference between predictive power and potentially self-serving, misplaced, and/or unchangeable dogma — by the way, Joe, no one in current biological theory really believes in “classical Darwinism” any more, so all this simplistic talk about missing links goes to prove that, with all due respect, many highly educated and otherwise brilliant folks (you two excellent and profound gents, for example, whom I know to be very powerful and serious thinkers) are severely unsophisticated in your take on the scientific method and its most recent discoveries.

    Please understand, science does not claim to answer all questions in any absolute way; instead is always, er, “evolving,” so it doesn’t pretend to provide the “Big Truths,” only little and contingent ones. On the other hand, religion claims access to all sorts of Big Truths about existence and thus stops much growth of.. um,.. otherwise knowable knowledge in its proverbial tracks.

    I mean, after all, nothing has happened to change the central dogma of most faiths since they emerged historically. That is to say, religious faith leaves one no place to go intellectually beyond further discussions of faith-based knowledge. It certainly does not invent a functional space station.

    Again, please understand, I am not criticizing nor disparaging faith or religion in any way. As far as I can see, faith reigns supreme in spiritual matters and ethical questions (please see the writings of Descartes, Kant, Hume, and Spinoza for further various explications on that specific point). However, that does not grant license or permission to some particular brand of spiritual belief to try and strong-arm itself by replacement or otherwise into the realm of empirical or causation-based knowledge.

    Scientific Method is all about constant experimentation (to prove, disprove or refine theories) and the ability to make causal, verifiable, objective predictions (objective in the sense that any two people will get the same experimental results if they each properly perform an experiment (i.e. think cold fusion from a few years ago as a well-known “fail” on that score)), not subjective, non-testable and/or oracular resort to areas/subjects of knowledge that science and its honest adherents have generally conceded are not correctly the subject of scientific empirical research anyway. Non-empirically based subjects, such as the Divine Nature of God, is one such example of a pure Truth about which science will always be ignorant and uninformative. Obviously, science cannot tell humans anything about that kind of profoundity; it is faith’s domain. So, hey, why not render unto science that knowledge which belongs to science…

    In a historical/moral context (and as a jab below the belt of my esteemed colleagues) so far as I can tell, no scientist in history has ever burnt anyone at the stake or maimed/slaughtered millions for the sole failing of subscribing to a different scientific theory from his/her own…

    Yes, of course, science is constantly fixing old theories or trashing them and moving on to a different paradigm (if I ruled the world, no one who has not read Thomas Kuhn’s “On scientific Revolutions” would be allowed to use the word “paradigm” as regards the history and philosophy of western science >;-)). That is why it requires more of its adherents than a static sort of faith that does not force one intellectually to do anything more than shrug ones shoulders and declaim that we cannot hope to understand our species’ own origins because we are not privy to the Mind of God.

    To conclude by paraphrasing my scatter-brained argument, unlike religion’s rationality, science does not teach morality nor should it claim to uncover God’s Will. Science is simply a spectacularly successful way of uncovering the phenomenal world. Public education is thus the proper location for science and scientific endeavors. On the other hand, communities, churches, the family, etc. are the immensely fertile grounds for religious faith and spiritual growth for all.

    Tortoise soup, anyone?

    In the final analysis, why, yes, I do need Joe in person with whom to debate if I want to remain even remotely sane.

  6. Joe

    “In a historical/moral context (and as a jab below the belt of my esteemed colleagues) so far as I can tell, no scientist in history has ever burnt anyone at the stake or maimed/slaughtered millions for the sole failing of subscribing to a different scientific theory from his/her own.”

    However, science is forever at the fore in devising ways in which humanity may unleash new ills and means of destruction upon itself. Not to sound like a broken record, but I have never underestimated the capacity of man to inflict evil upon the other. I do not consider that to be an overly bleak or cynical point of view, it’s merely an observation based upon historical perspective. Tyranny and genocidal compunctions, irrespective of motives, remains tyrannical and genocidal regardless of its cloak of justification, religious or otherwise.

    But again, lest we stray too far from the object of the initial post, take a gander at “The 12th Imam”, as it illustrates both perspectives to one degree or another.

  7. georgie

    Sense a lot of FAITH in man’s construct of scientific method. My challenge to the infallibility and incorruptibility of science is pretty simple. Politics and bias skew results; grants and funding direct what is studied and influence results too. See global warming and the history of accuracy of carbon dating…Did not want to address asil and joe’s argument but if you read my comment it suggests that neither side of position belongs in school since their are so many other pure subjects to study that would better equip those children to make up their own minds anyway.

  8. Asil Dance


    Come on, be fair. No one seriously claims that science is perfect or uninfluenced by society itself (i.e. Kuhn’s seminal work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” a work I stupidly mis-titled in my previous post). So, Georgie, with all due respect, shame on you! You know full well that your argument presents with a straw man. What is claimed on behalf of science in general is that the knowledge accumulation and refinement provided by science and the scientific method have given humanity the admittedly ever-fluid knowledge base to make Joe’s fine computer blog even possible.

    Joe, our understanding of physical reality is contingent upon new AND repeatable discoveries, the content of which does not depend solely on ones religious affiliation or lack thereof. Religious faith invokes the an eternal, not a changing, body of knowledge. In essence, you are conflating these separate ways of arriving at truth at every juncture.

    So, Sirs, please explain how the above-mentioned advances in technology are possible if the scientific method is so fundamentally flawed and irreparably subjective as to be innately untrustworthy? Hey, now, has religious thought ever produced a micro-wave oven or an effective treatment of childhood leukemia? Of course not. And it’s not fair to expect it to. Technology is simply not the domain of religious truth.

    In sum, there is no “faith” underlying properly conducted science. It’s every “theory” can be falsified by repeated experimentation (except, maybe, today’s most outre claims from physics). That is why we must teach the scientific method as the exclusive way of learning about the physical nature of the universe, regardless of vastly different underlying religious persuasions. Our offspring must understand the difference between faith and experimentation if they wish to make electric cars and more effective medical treatments. After all, faith is not falsifiable, Georgie (That’s one small portion of the complex explanation for religious wars — ya can’t actually and verifiably “prove” that God exists or His nature, so nations in part kill over answering these questions). Even now, American kids are now distinctly lagging far behind many other nations in scientific literacy and useful technological advances. We won’t do them a service by pretending that faith is functionally the same as, or incompatible with, science

    Joe, science can’t be blamed for the murderous use we make of its fruits. “Guns don’t kill people; People kill people,” right? That’s precisely why we should not ban gun ownership.

    Um, that “12th Imam” sure sounds like an exciting and informative and downright fun book!

    Why, yes, i’ll shut up now.

  9. Joe

    Asil, of course not. The thread is spent, though it was fun and I must move on and post a review on the “Outlaw” lest our loyal readers mistake me for some type of anti-intellectual. Anyhow, I will visit the ivory tower in which you are currently imprisoned and deliver the imam soonest. To be continued…

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