Complete Versus Incomplete Religions
In continuing with yesterday's post, I thought I would make a couple points of comparison/contrasts within the Abrahamic religions which might further drive the point home.
In particular, one of the things which really stand out when comparing Christianity, Judaism*, and Islam is that the last two are both "big angry god" religions. Both religions have a clearly defined "in-group" and "out-group" boundary, with little or no moral duty owed to outsiders. Both have historically engaged in what can be legitimately called genocide, in which these actions were not just allowed, but altogether commended as righteous.
Neither Judaism or Islam are religions which require that its members sacrifice their interest for the well-being of outsiders, broadly speaking. Quite the opposite, sacrificing the good (the insiders and their interest) for the evil (who just so happen to be the outsiders) is seen as sin altogether.
Christianity on the other hand does, to be fair, have some awareness of "in-group" and "out-group", but is generally universalist in applying values. The New Testament is quite mild reading compared to either the Old Testament or the Koran. The basic thrust of Christianity (at least with regarding to dealing with others) seems to be "be nice to people". As such, it is incredibly venerable to exploitation of altruism.
Many have noted that Islam (and if one wishes to be fair, at least historic Judaism) does not seem to accommodate itself well to the separation of church and state. I would argue that both these religions are "complete" social organizing systems, in that they are stable with regard to the exploitation of altruism. Christianity, on the other hand, is incomplete in that it needs a "hard shell" like a turtle to deal with the broader world, since always "be[ing] nice to people" is generally a good strategy for getting one's DNA taken out of the gene pool early. It seems that for much of the post-Roman period, chivalry and the balance of power between the Catholic Church and the feudal nobility “completed” the system, in that it provided an external, outwardly-looking system which was not for the most part susceptible to exploitation though altruism. Now, with the system of nobility replaced by absolute equality and democracy, society seems to be slipping back to the proto-communism/communalism of early Christianity, where property was held in common, etc.
* Regarding Judaism, I realize that it is not monolithic at this point, and one may argue about its definition. Today’s Judaism, as I understand it, often includes elements of witchcraft/occult which obviously differentiate it from the Old Testament definition. Still, I think that the Old Testament provides the best definition since a) it is the original and b) people in exile or who are small in number will not necessarily express their religion to its full extend since they depend on good relations with their neighbors. If there were 300 million Jews instead of Arab Muslims, would Judaism (re)turn to a more violent nature? In this case, my guess is that the Semitic nature (i.e. tribal, long in holding grudges, etc) has a fundamentally effect on shaping the implementation of a religion. Equally so, the natural tendency of people from Northern Europe towards altruism has probably exaggerated some elements of Christianity (for example, is Scandinavia really that far from communalism?).