Spread by the sword

I recently read the remarks of the Pope. Everyone is focusing on the aggressive tone taken toward Islam. Muslims are reacting in a typically bestial manner. But it seems to me that Benedict is being disingenuous in pretending as if Christianity was spread purely through moral suasion. I have already noted the vandalism and violence sanctioned by Christian Emperors, starting with Theodosius, against pagans their sacred temples late in the 4th century. The conversion of figures like Clovis or Vladimir meant that their peoples entered the faith by fiat, certainly this was not the case where Christianity percolated amongst the masses of its own accord. The forced conversion of the Saxons during the later part of Charlemagne's reign, or the brutality of anti-pagan marcher lords like the Teutonic Knights, is indisputable (see The Barbarian Conversion). Of course, Islam also has the character of fiat. Forced conversions were well known in the history of Islam, and the debased and subject status of the dhimmi resulted in the slow by inexorable transformation of formerly Christian or Zoroastrian lands into Muslim ones. With Buddhism, another transnational faith, there were periods of tension, as when the first Tibetan kings chose between the indigenous Bon and the newly introduced Buddhist faith, or when barbarian warlords promoted Buddhism in north China in the 5th century, or the introduction of the faith during the 6th and 7th century to Japan.

My gestalt impression is that quantitatively the violence and social stress associated with the spread of these three faiths can be rank ordered like so: Islam >> Christianity >> Buddhism. For Buddhism I wondered if I could think of a long period of time when the religion and the conversion of new populations was fraught with strain, and I did think of one period: the Chinese "Dark Ages" after the fall of the Han dynasty in the 3rd century and before the rise of the Sui-Tang in the late 6th. During this period barbarian warlords from the steppe patronized Buddhism, while the native literati clung to their Confucianism. Though Buddhism was eventually Sinicized, during this period it was a foreign and alien faith, and the subsequent Sui-Tang period saw the rise to dominance of Buddhism as the religion of the Chinese state, only to subsequently be dethroned and removed from the temporal realm around 850 during a massive anti-foreigner pogrom. I bring this up to offer something which I think is relevant: the tension emerged from the fact that an alien ruling caste promoted the new religion. In contrast, in Southeast Asia, Tibet, South Korea and Japan a native ruling caste promoted Buddhism (though in these cases these native ruling elites had important interfaces with the outside world, as in Tibet where a Tang princess made Buddhism popular at court). The same problem with Buddhism cropped when the Mongols began to promote a form of Tibetan Buddhism at court in China. Or, more obscurely, when the Khara-Khitai began to promote Buddhism amongst the Muslims of Eastern Turkestan in the early 13th century.

I am thinking about these things because I recently read Robert Pape's Dying to Win. To simplify, Pape's argument is that suicide terrorism needs several necessary preconditions, and a religious difference between the "rulers" and the "ruled" is a major parameter. In the case of "Islam as spread by the sword," I think it is instructive to note that in the 7th and 8th centuries Islam spread as the Arab religion. In the 10th centuries the slave soldiers of the Arabs from the Turkic realms came to the fore, and for much of the next 1,000 years Turks were the imperial people of Islam, spreading the faith far and wide and ruling dhimmis from India to Europe. In the Balkans "Turk" and Muslim became nearly synonymous, despite the eventual conversion of large numbers of Slavs (outside of Bosnia they are called Pomaks) and Albanians. In India the Muslim rulers were by and large not of the native ethnic stock, but Turks and Persian (Persian through the matriline). Their armies were filled with foreign Muslims, from Central Asia to Arabia to East Africa. In Spain the Muslims were notionally Berber and Arab, and they ruled over a Romance speaking population. In India, the Balkans and Spain the Muslims retreated, alien rulers who took refuge in their "homelands." But the memories of oppression remain.

Where is the Christian analog to this? When Constantine converted to Christianity, initiating the century long process of transforming the imperial government from a pagan to a Christian institution, Rome was a state in stasis or retreat. Christianity came to the fore precisely when the old temporal order was in decline, and Roman Christian power withdrew from vast swaths of Europe which were re-paganized by barbarians. In what became England the 6th century saw the extinction of Christianity so that a second conversion had to be attempted early in the 7th (this was successful). And when this conversion was initiated it aimed at winning over local rulers, and offered them the legitimacy of international contacts, divine legitimacy as the vice-reagent of God upon earth, one king for one God. The Carlognian assault on the Saxons and their forced Christianization, or the Ottotian blackmail of the Danes, and the later centuries long Crusade against the Balts, were exceptions. All across northern and eastern European ambitious monarchs accepted Christianity to secure their position, gain outside contacts, and bring their nations into the congress of civilized nations. On the level of the individual peasant there was likely no practical difference, insofar as their shrines were destroyed, their shamans persecuted, their idols burned. But with the ruling caste converted the fall of a dynasty did not mean de-Christianization. In the case of Islam the roots were never deep enough in places like the Balkans and Spain, and local Christian warlords served as a reservoir of resentment and anti-Muslim religious feeling that could fill the vacuum when the alien rulers retreated. While Christians spread into "pagan space," which seemed not to have "bounce back" capacity, Muslims spread into the space of higher religions, that of Chrisianity and Zoroastrianism. Though the Zoroastrian battle against Arab rule is forgotten today for the first several centuries of Arab Muslim rule from the Persian heartland deep into Central Asia there were rebellions under the banner of the old religion and the old families. In India the Muslims were never able to convert more than 1/3 of the native populace, and a non-trivial reservoir of elite Hindus remained. With the decline of Muslim power in the 18th century Hindu states quickly rose to fill the vacuum. As the Muslims were marginalized the memories of oppression and victimization by the sword were inflammed. And yet one must remember, it is precisely in some of the areas that Muslims are dominant, as in the Punjab and Sindh, where Muslim atrocities seem to have been most concentrated. But the citizens of Pakistan do not look to their non-Muslim past and feel bitterness...because now they are Muslims.

This is not to argue that Islam's lighting spread was not quantitatively more violent than the more paced diffusion of Christianity or Buddhism. But, it is to suggest that the rapid nature of the spread resulted in ethnically alien castes ruling over non-Muslim populations. In the cases where the natives eventually converted there is no great resentment. In areas where they did not, the rollback of Islam has resulted in strong memories of oppression and victimization. In contrast, Christianity, like Buddhism, tended to spread more with local elites. Additionally, both Buddhism and Christianity expanded into "virgin lands," Europeans before Christianity and Asians before Buddhism were not familiar with a systematic and philosophical transnational religion. Islam on the other hand displaced already established higher religions, and so the tensions were heightened across the transitionary period (which reversed in several cases).

My point in bringing this up is perhaps suggesting the role of historical contingency here. If Christianity had been promoted by the late Republic, and been part of the ruling ideology of the Roman state as it spread into lands where Zoroastrianism was dominant, I have no doubt that after the Roman retreat harsh memories of Jesus' faith of the sword would be common today. As it is, both Christianity and Buddhism spread during times of chaos, decentralization and civilizational fragment (between the 3rd and 6th centuries). And all the better.

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From an atheist to all the Muslims who have been summarily informed that their beliefs are evil...

From an atheist to all the Catholics who now need fear violence at the hands of religious fanatics...

From an atheist to all the people of faith who wonder at the speed with which religious dogma can lead to physical danger...

...Welcome to our world.

By Corkscrew (not verified) on 16 Sep 2006 #permalink

[it is to suggest that the rapid nature of the spread resulted in ethnically alien castes ruling over non-Muslim populations. In the cases where the natives eventually converted there is no great resentment. In areas where they did not, the rollback of Islam has resulted in strong memories of oppression and victimization. In contrast, Christianity, like Buddhism, tended to spread more with local elites.]

Interesting article. I wonder how you would square away your thesis with the spread of Christianity in Africa? Even though Christianity spread rapidly with an alien caste ruling in Africa, I don't see much resentment towards Christianity. Does Islam inherently produce this resentment and Christianity is immune from this effect?

Even though Christianity spread rapidly with an alien caste ruling in Africa, I don't see much resentment towards Christianity

most of the conversion to christianity has been promoted by local missionaries. look at the % in the world christian encyclopedia, christians were a minority during the 1950s & 1960s. christianity is very much a local phenomenon,a nd usually the expansion is headed by "local" movements (those without affiliation with transnational denominations). after time, many who enter via local christian movements convert to switch to more traditional denominations.

the short of it is that the african ruling elite is christian, and was educated in christian schools. this is elite cooption, not an alien religion.

Conversion to a world religion often is the condition for the attainment of literacy and of the ability to participate in the civilized world. Literacy is very rarely taught to illiterate peoples by secular teachers; the USSR and China would be exceptions, but teachers there were proselytizing for state Communism.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 16 Sep 2006 #permalink

well, not necessarily a world religion if you include hinduism and confucianism. i would hold that only christianity, buddhism and islam are transcivilizational religions (hinduism at one point in southeast asia was, but no longer) which operate with the dynamic you're speaking of.

razib, I agree with a lot of your analysis - it suggested things I hadn't thought of, but I think that it is very hard to say that Islam is more martially evangelical than Christianity. You have only to look at the Albigensian Crusade, the effects of Catholic domination of South America, and of course the destruction of "pagan injuns" in North America. Let alone, the "Christianisation" of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Basically, though, the religion used is irrelevant. What drove these invasions was largely economic and political, and the religion was a tool, as Machiavelli noted, of social cohesion of both the invaders and the conquered. Moreover, the violence between the sects of Christianity surely holds a record for bloodiness. The Hundred Years War, the destruction of the heretical sects in the late classical era, the invasion of Catholic Ireland by Protestant England, again and again.

It isn't whether Islam or Christianity was more violent, it is that religion is a tool of violence for political purposes.

Razib I generally agree with the overall points of your article, but I think the coercive nature of Christianity's spread in the New World is understated. Similarly, Islam grew in places like Indonesia not by the sword, but as an alternative to the hindu caste system. The leveling power of Islam when introduced into a rigidly hierarchical culture must have been welcome to those at the 'bottom'.

You have only to look at the Albigensian Crusade, the effects of Catholic domination of South America, and of course the destruction of "pagan injuns" in North America.

1) well, i think the vector is the same, but he magnitude might differ. perceptions here are gestalt, so people can disagree.

2) south america is actually a good case of elite imposition. and here you have cases where "indigenous movements" are considering reversion to pre-christian paganism. in much of south america the catholic overlay was also nominal, so the indigenous reliogisity still exists to resurface. so i think it is an example of what i'm talking about when an alien ruling caste brings the religion and the indigenous substrate still remains incompletely penetrated.

3) north america, new zealand and oz are interesting cases. in NA most of the death was due to plague it seems. second, many groups like the cherokee converted to christianity wholesale. in new zealand my understanding is that the indigenous maori church is a vehicle for nationalist resistance.

4) Moreover, the violence between the sects of Christianity surely holds a record for bloodiness. The Hundred Years War, the destruction of the heretical sects in the late classical era, the invasion of Catholic Ireland by Protestant England, again and again. these are all good points. but, the key here that i am analyzing is the perception of bloodiness. ireland is a good example insofar as the decoupling between the elite and the masses in religion has resulted in long term bad feeling. the destruction of heretical sectcs in the classical era though is an example where the violence was so far in the past that it is irrelevant, and modern day greeks who might be descended from arian schismatics don't hold it against nicene christianity since they are nicene christians!

5) It isn't whether Islam or Christianity was more violent, it is that religion is a tool of violence for political purposes. yes, this is a good point. more on this later....

Similarly, Islam grew in places like Indonesia not by the sword, but as an alternative to the hindu caste system

this is a complex case actually.

1) no, islam had elite appeal, specifically, the merchant classes were islamicized first. the first muslims recorded in javanese annals were ministers at court who were from mercentile backgrounds on coastal city-states.

2) the coastal city-states which depended on the merchant classes were eventually islamicized as the ruler converted to the faith as well.

3) at which point they engaged in wars of jihad against the interior hindu states (e.g., mahajapit). eventually they transformed all of java into an islamic zone (eastern java took longer, but again, jihads were declared by the muslim states against hindu kingdoms until they were extirpated by the 18th century).

a) the caste system was not recreated in java in the way it was in india, so the analogy is problematic. java was a melange of hindu, buddhist and javanese practices, so the analogy with the possible spread of islam among the disenfranchised in india is not appropriate. the 'higher religions' all spread via elite transmission.

b) there is a positive correlation between islamic orthodoxy and SES in java. in the 1960s the east javan landlords were generally more likely to be orthodox muslims than their abangan peasants (there is an alternative tradition of elite mysticism to santri orthodoxy, but that is a different thread, and distinct from the syncretic islam/hinduism common among peasants). there has been conversion of un-orthodox muslims to hinduism since the 1960s actually, generally peasants from interior to east java, where orthodox islam has always been weak.

c) so, islam spread into southeast asia (including malaysia) from on high, via local co-option). it was part of an integration of southeast asia into an indian ocean mercentile system which was now dominated by muslims instead of indians. you are correct thought that it would be harder to depict it as a religion of the sword because it was not brought and imposed by a herrenvolk. in malaysia the benefits of islam for states like malacca were clear, and so much so that groups like the hindu chams of vietnam, who were ethnic malays, tended to convert to islam via information & trade networks (there are still hindu chams in vietnam who were unconverted because of the sealing off of contacts with the rest of the malay word due to vietnamese and later french expansion).

...your point about the new world is interesting, and valid i believe.

addendum: bali has a caste system, but it is nothing like in india. i believe it is a triple system, with the vast majority between sudras, and its inhumanity never resembled what was common in india.

Fascinating response, particularly (b), I had no idea there has been coversion back to Hinduism in Java. And you're right, I was thinking in terms of the imposition of Islam via external elites, rather than the native merchant class, which of course was an elite of its own. Regarding the caste system while I understand that it did not replicate India, certainly Hindu (or perhaps pre-hindu) notions of hierarchy are embedded in Javanese culture, and Islam has been seen by many as an antidote to that. But to be clear, I am basing this on anecdotal evidence (i.e friends and colleagues from years of working there) rather than a comprehensive knowledge of Indonesian culture, so I accept I could very well be getting this wrong. Illuminating post and discussion thread though. Most useful thing I've seen yet on this issue.

Hindu (or perhaps pre-hindu) notions of hierarchy are embedded in Javanese culture

both. my impression is that hindu cosmogony explicated many concepts within javanese mysticism. re: islam & elitism...santri islamic reformist movements which trace back to the 19th and early 20th century are seen as a countermovement to the javanese aristocracy, which is often syncretic in its outlook in a sophisticated manner. these reformists are the types who support jihadist groups in ambon. their base is often the urban middle class, dispossessed peasants who sought a new mooring in the world. so, strictly speaking they are not elite as i would understand them, but rather strivers who seek to align themselves with a universalism which rules & structure. they are fighting against heirarchy, but, it is an ostensibly islamici heirarchy (though not islamic in the way they would understand seeing as how the javanese elite still retains a considerable store of pre-islamic motifs and ideals, or, more precisely, non-islamic).

p.s. there is an interesting trend in indonesia where the first and last regions to be islamicized are often the more purely orthodox. java, in the middle, had the the most indigenous high culture to begin with, so it is generally not as islamic as say aceh, where non-islamic influences are almost all gone, or sulawesi, where high culture did not exist much before the conversion to islam.

Corkscrew, the atheist dogma of Communism brought physical danger in the form of tens of millions murdered. Perhaps more corpses than all religions - ever.
As for speed of that violence - it's utterly unrivalled.
Atheistic Communism killed all those millions in a handful of decades.
But I'm sure you think you look dashing on that High Horse.
Carry on.
I have no further use for you.

By Agnostic - I k… (not verified) on 18 Sep 2006 #permalink

Yeah, sorry, that came across as ridiculously pompous. It just irritates me somewhat that minority persecution only gets cries of horror when that minority is a majority somewhere else. The Pope, the Muslims, they can all be as nasty as they like to atheists, and will the press cover it? Fat chance.

Not sure where the reference to Communism came from.

By Corkscrew (not verified) on 18 Sep 2006 #permalink

I believe the reason why this point of view takes on so easily is a few fold: if you examine the history of islam and particularly it's infallible leader, there is justification on all sorts of ends for takeover and violence. This is NOT helped one bit by the claim that the Quran was given straight from God to Muhammad. Conversely, and although there are modern day literalists of such things as bible texts, well over the first millenium and a half of Christianity was about doctrine, up to challenge and formulation of doctrine through tradition and discussion. It's like (and I've seen Razib post about Rodney Stark) Stark's description of judaism and islam being orthoprax religions, innately more constructionist due to writings straight from God through Moses and Muhammad, which are all about regulation of community life and therefore have different questions asked of them. Compare this to Christianity's orthodoxy, which offers question of doctrine, and this is where disputes arose early on and even more recently. It's actually quite funny because modern christianity without church and bishops (as its history has always been) in our free society here in the USA is JUST like islam was back then. Many divisions of people now thinking literally and whomever declares himself proper interpreter can have his own mini church / mosque with preacher/imam. In other words, mass confusion due to lack of structure, loss of tradition and therefore legitimacy if someone wants to link ancient christianity (presuming those people knew better since they were closer to the source).

Consider as well the fact that outside of more recent politically driven persuasion (read: rebellious youths without religion growing up often tend towards more eastern or exotic minority religions in the US, for various reasons but probably because it's cooler to be different) in newer lands, Islam never converted anyone by simple moral teachings or otherwise great examples of living. Most of the conversion of New World peoples by Catholics and outcry on this board over that had far more to do with political/economic feudalism, as various church officials condemned new world slavery and such. Also, as pointed out, the church was weak in latin america because these people were lazy and didn't care too much ... and pagan traditions persisted. But the point is that the Slavs converted by Cyril and Methodius were gentle missionaries. Many more community projects were undertaken to bring Christ's teachings to people, whereas there cannot be a separation of political/religious life in the case of islam ... and hardly any reviewer have I seen look at the quran as a great piece of literature in even a secular sense. Maybe I haven't seen enough reviews.

I'm wondering what others think of this. I tried to clarify, but in interest to include a lot, I may have confused issues even more. Cheers

East

well over the first millenium and a half of Christianity was about doctrine

doctrinal disputes were far more important in the eastern church. additionally

1) many doubt the salience of doctrine to most believers on a substantive as opposed to notional level

2) nominally doctrinal disagreemants are held by many to simply be a verbal reflection of national/regional rivalries.

Stark's description of judaism and islam being orthoprax religions, innately more constructionist due to writings straight from God through Moses and Muhammad,

there is theory, and then there is practice. in theory one can make this generalization, but

a) the orthopraxy of judaism is far more practical in the context of city-dwellers with demarcated and circumscribed lives

b) the orthodoxy of islam is far more practical for city-dwellers with demarcated and circumscribed lives

in other words, there is a difference between the practice and the reality. in the case of judaism, remember that rabbnical judaism evolved in the late roman and early pre-islamic period, cystallizing under the minority experience under christians and muslims. there was a well over 1,000 year lag between the tanakh and the emerges of the talmud, so asserting that 'judaism is like so because of the nature of the founding document' is problematic. after all, hellenistic judaism was a counterforce to the pharisees, but looks to have absorbed into christianity (this is starks' argument). similar issues crop up with islam, with the extent of praxy being far less than the ideal because of the nature of society. only with the emergence of specialization and the urban milieu being normative has sharia throughout all levels of society been practical. similarly, christianity's emphasis on the correct belief as opposed to practice is also an ideal. in books like the germanization of christianity or the barbrian conversion you see that most early chistians were nominal, withh little understanding of the faith they aceded to. rather, christianity was marked by pagaentry, ritual and particular practices (e.g., rejection of horse meat consumption, rejection of polygyny, etc.). many of these practices derived from romanitas, and had nothing 'fundamental' to do with the faith. nevertheless, parsing and teasing apart society, culture and religion is well nigh impossible.

in our free society here in the USA is JUST like islam was back then

i think it can be argue that early islam had more structure and centralized power than later islam with its weak states. early islam was characterized by theological debate between the asherites and mutazilites, with the latter drawing heavily from greek thought. as it happened, the mutazillites lost, but, the struggle seems to mitigate against any extreme fundamental dichotomy (maimonides himself, who is the source for the central strain in modern orthodox judaism, drank deeply from greek philosophy as well).

in newer lands, Islam never converted anyone by simple moral teachings or otherwise great examples of living. Most of the conversion of New World peoples by Catholics and outcry on this board over that had far more to do with political/economic feudalism, as various church officials condemned new world slavery and such. Also, as pointed out, the church was weak in latin america because these people were lazy and didn't care too much ... and pagan traditions persisted.

yes, islam did conquer through moral force, or at least through mass suasion. it seems clear this is how much of interior west africa was converted, as islam was an entree into international civilization for african potentates. in java islam spread via trade networks, as it did in what became malaya. in parts of india sufis were an alternative force to bhakti devotional movements which appealed to the south asian masses. as or cyril and methodius, they did not gently convert the slavs, they simply created a language in which the slavs could worship. they were invited by the lord of moravia as a way to balance the byzantine with the frankish influence. later bulgaria, serbia and russia were converted by fiat from on high, and a pagan rebellion by bulgarian boyers was crushed with the sword.

Many more community projects were undertaken to bring Christ's teachings to people, whereas there cannot be a separation of political/religious life in the case of islam ... and hardly any reviewer have I seen look at the quran as a great piece of literature in even a secular sense.

this is very hard to parse. christianity did spread ahead of the state, but some of the great missioanries like st. boniface had state support. do you suppose his destruction of pagan holy trees would have been as easy if he didn't have the support of local christian lords and support of charles martel's hammer?

your comment is interesting, but your data is too thin on the group for you to abduce as you do. read more, there is a great deal out there. as for your reference to stark, i've read almost all of his books, and there's good to be gotten out of them, but he a) he knows no psychology, and that is a failing b) his contempt for opinions not his is not warranted by his often shallow knowledge of the historical material. one page 131 of one true god stark repeats 1960s models of the victory of charles' martel and their use of stirrups which is outmoded and totally superseded by an enormous controversy starting around 1970. i'm not a historian, but i know enough history to know this, but what is galling about this is that in the previous pages stark bemoans the fact that the public is decades behind in their understanding of ancient and medieval history! pot calling the kettle black.

of course, stark tells many people what they want to hear, so i suppose that's fine, but polemics tire me. read real history, but any more references to stark will not win me any points in terms of the credibility of the expositer.

Razib, interesting you don't comment on the fundamental difference of example of Muhammad. It's an obvious and inherent quality of difference between aforementioned "abrahamic" religions. Why are there so many fundamental/literal islamists? Because all sects preach of house of God and house of War [rest of the bullshit deleted. ANIMALS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COMMENT HERE. don't waste my time with repeating false assertions easily disconfirmed by reading the most basic of historical monographs. i take no pleasure in rolling in your mental pigshit idiot. you're as much of a moron as most muslims are. you're not interested in thinking, all you're kind want to do is repeat your stupid bullshit and waste everyone's time. i might not have responded to your 7 year old quality observation but i wasted 10 fucking minutes responding to your idiocy retard, and you show no evidence of even attempting to engage it, instead you repeat talking points that could have come out of a LGF reader's turds. you disgust me. your lack of intellectual breadth and unselfconsciousness about it leaves me awed

-Razib]

I don't recall being violent or bigoted. I see that this is not a posters place of questions to be asked/answered and therefore learned. I'm sorry I even tried to learn something from someone so hostile to questions ... Animals? That is just blatant misrepresentation.

I don't recall being violent

unselfconscious ignorance is violence to the mind. the extent of your boldness in assertion far exceeds the breadth of your knowledge on display. it violates the norms of acceptable discourse.

east
razib writes almost one thousand words in a detailed response to your comment, and you start out next with --

Razib, interesting you don't comment on ...

You obviously aren't familiar with this blog. Perhaps you should stick with the morons who allow you to jerk them around with rhetorical skill. Correction, that should read dishonest rhetorical skill. There are many, many ways to lie.
.

Now, on to my original comment on the spread of religion, which is a bit anticlimactic after the above.

Here's a marginally related but interesting chain of events, very general and the first item is not updated since I heard it.

Back in the late 60s I remember from a "Religion and Philosophies of India" class, that there was scholarly thinking that Buddhism represented a resurgence of native, pre-Aryan, Indian religious culture after 1,000-plus years of Hindu dominance.

Now there's quite a bit of evidence, even visual evidence in the caves of Dunhuang, that the Indo-European Tocharians, whose likely pioneering settlement of the Tarim basin northwest of Tibet allowed the Silk Road to develop, were instrumental in passing Buddhism along that route and into China. There's a bit, but growing, evidence the Tocharians, or other Indo-European steppe peoples, introduced the Chinese to bronze, possibly metallurgy in general, horses, the spoked wheel, and maybe other important technology, and somehow participated in the early "Warring States" Chinese dark-ages.

There's logical speculation that the proto-Tocharians, who were well-established in the Tarim by 2,000 BC, may be descended from, even refugial remnants of the Afanasevo Culture. This is a little known, extremely early frontier Indo-European culture found as far away from the proposed pontic-steppe Indo-European homeland as possible. The northeast edge of the Siberian steppe, up against the Altai and other mountain ranges that form the boundary with Mongolia and China.

Though the 1,500 miles between that putative, late proto-Indo-European Yamna culture in the east and the Afanasevo Culture is poorly understood, there's no evidence of a cultural spread leading across space and up through time to the Afanasevo. One can imagine a border tribe with the newly developed Yamna technology kit of wheel, wagon, horse and herds -- nomadic pastoralism -- picking up en mass and heading for the hills. Intuition says it wasn't a positive impetus.

What would have caused Afanasevo refugees to the north to migrate into the desert of Tarim? The massive spread of the Andronovo culture from a confined southern Ural, chariot-inventing culture across southern Siberia and Kazakhstan starting about 2300 BC. Andronovo culture is widely hypothesized as the Indo-Iranians, or proto-Indo-Iranians, who later became the Persians and the Aryans, who of course, brought the Hindu pantheon to India. And we're back to the opening of this comment.

Yes I know there's much dispute about a lot of this. It's still an interesting story, as is.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 20 Sep 2006 #permalink

I had an east/west mixup in my draft and thought I corrected them all. But...

Though the 1,500 miles between that putative, late proto-Indo-European Yamna culture in the east and the Afanasevo Culture is poorly understood,

Should read....

Though the 1,500 miles between that putative, late proto-Indo-European Yamna culture in the west and the Afanasevo Culture is poorly understood,

There's a map of these cultures [3500-2200 BC] on page 195 inside a PDF located on a publications page.. It's in the fifth chapter, "Andronovo Archaeology", in the 2004 dissertation by archaeologist Michael D. Frachetti. He's been surveying, excavating and studying a Bronze Age steppe culture in southeastern Kazakhstan. He describes this project in an article in the Silk Road Foundation's newsletter. Address is [http://www[dot]silkroadfoundation[dot]org/newsletter/2004vol2num1/bronz…].

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 21 Sep 2006 #permalink

skookum:

I'll continue to read stuff of razib's I find interesting, although I feel that they way he handled the previous posts to be without class. Are you trying to gang up on me when you don't even know what was originally posted?

All I wanted to know was his take on the theocratic ways of islam, which are unlike other faiths, in terms of governing society/community.

and razib, I detect Stark's tendencies. i understand what you're saying.

east,

i was certainly rude to you. but, there are two issues you have to be aware of

1) the rudeness was not just directed at you. i make 'examples' of people specifically to discourage too many comments as i want a specific type of comment

2) the reason i don't find your comments acceptable is that i do not feel you engage me on my terms. you might think this is presumptuous, but, i run this blog for my own self-education. ergo, i want a particular type of comment. with you i simply don't have much common ground, the facts that you assert as background truths i simply don't agree with. this means that any response to queries you post, that is, playing your game, is going to suck up a lot of my time as i elucidate exactly what i mean. but, the reality is that i have 4 years of blogging under my belt, so repeating what i've said before gets really tiresome and frustrating, and my marginal time is not expansive (yes, i have a full time job, and then some, as well as other hobbies and interests in my life besides blogging).

now, see this assertion:

All I wanted to know was his take on the theocratic ways of islam, which are unlike other faiths, in terms of governing society/community.

the bolded parts are basically imprecise enough that i don't know what you're saying, and on first inspection i'm liable to reject your contention, but, i don't really know what you mean so i'm pretty frustrated. if you make a strong assertion, you have to be explict and clear about your logic. additionally, responses should acknowledge the substance of my response. i don't comment just to teach or inform others of my opinions, i'm trying to extract further analysis and information.

so

a) you should have defined what "theocratic ways" means, as it isn't like i can go look that up in a dictionary. e.g., is the caesareo-papism of the early byzantine emperors "theocratic." what about the tibetan lamacrocies? what about the god-kings of ancient egypt? all these might be theocratic, but they are fundamentally different, so the term itself isn't with great utility without further explanation.

b) without a clear understanding of a), i can't begin to understand how islam is "unlike other faiths."

if you feel this sort of fleshing out of your worldview is onerous, than this is not the comment board for you. as a commenter here your own burden is different from mine (i have to post and respond to queries from all angles), and in some ways greater, than mine. i don't feel like i should explicate everything in detail because my assumptions are found throughout this blog, in copious detail. you on the other hand are an unknown entity (though this is modulated for someone with a blog that i can read).

i'd assumed my rudeness would have scared you away. it hasn't. that's fine. but you know the ground rules now. i don't have the time or interest to engage you on this topic right now, but if i post on these issues in the future and you wish to engage me, you know what i expect. you aren't paying for this service, so it isn't like i owe you anything.

East
Your opening sent a signal, correct or not, that 1) you were not really interested in dialog and learning, which 2) leads to the suspicion you have an agenda and are only looking for a soapbox. Simple courtesy would suggest that you, in some way, at the very least begin by acknowledging the other poster's effort and sincerity. You did the opposite. You started your second post negatively and by pointing out what razib didn't do.

After six months or so of reading science blogs one gets tired of the unending stream of denialists, of all stripes, whose sole interest is spewing the same repetitive talking points. And who almost universally lie about this motivation. The signals these people send out get more and more obvious with exposure.

If I'd seen more, perhaps this initial impression would have been corrected. But I'm sure razib gets his fair share of these type of posters. He doesn't want to waste his time -- it's like talking to a brick wall -- and it's nice not to have to wade through it as a reader. I read through a long exchange of his with someone, a very smart, sophisticated someone, months ago where he eventually did all the leg work and the commented ultimately proved disingenuous. It was exhausting just to read it.

razib
Recently I've collected some web-based material on the Botai culture, but haven't read it yet. It's also on the map I cited, between the Yamna and the Afanasevo close to the right time to be intermediate but I've seen no mention of that. Even more interesting, it exhibits the first[?] appearance of some cultural traits that show up in the Indo-Iranian descendent cultures via their earliest religious texts. Zoastarism and Vedic, I believe. There's an archaeological debate right now about whether the many tens of thousands of horse bones found at the type site belong to wild or domesticated horses. If domesticated, these would be the earliest known. If wild, these might represent the stage setting that led to domestication. And I think there's ongoing archaeological excavation there.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 21 Sep 2006 #permalink

Islam is the new Marxism. It's not the doctrinal content that's important, it's the radical anti-Imperialism stance.

From what little I know about Islamism, it reminds me of Socialist/Communist radicalism from the 19th century. Qutb's notion of a unified and relatively stateless umma reminds me of the utopian anarchisms dreamed up by discontent intellectuals under the obsolescing Tsarist state. Bin Laden is sort of like a Stalin or Black Hand anarchist: he's basically a guy who knows how to blow things up but doesn't have a clear idea of what he's FOR.

Just like Marx was never very clear about what "Communism" would be in implementation. It's not the content that counts, since that was all made up along the way. Islamism is probably the same.

Revolutionary types are probably never good citizens. I bet someone like Bin Laden would not be happy living a quiet banal life in an Islamist state. He'd be like Rosa Luxemburg in 1920's Moscow, who finally realized that governments are governments under any banner or slogan. He'd become a dissident, because that's what he is.

So in other words, I think this is just a case of same show, different channel. Any big thick text like Das Kapital or the Quran or whatever has enough variety for people to find pretty much what slogan suits them. If Muslims were chilled out people right now, they'd find a chilled out Islam.