Chesterton on Islam: it simplifies too much

From ch 1 of hishis book The New Jerusalem which is available online here for free or can be bought from

...the Moslem, the man of the desert, is intelligent enough to believe in God. But his belief is lacking in that humane complexity that comes from comparison. The man looking at the palm-tree does realise
the simple fact that God made it; while the man looking at
the lamp-post in a large modern city can be persuaded by a hundred
sophistical circumlocutions that he made it himself. But the man
in the desert cannot compare the palm-tree with the lamp-post,
or even with all the other trees which may be better worth looking
at than the lamp-post. Hence his religion, though true as far
as it goes, has not the variety and vitality of the churches
that were designed by men walking in the woods and orchards.
I speak here of the Moslem type of religion and not of the oriental type
of ornament, which is much older than the Moslem type of religion.
But even the oriental type of ornament, admirable as it often is,
is to the ornament of a gothic cathedral what a fossil forest is
to a forest full of birds. In short, the man of the desert tends
to simplify too much, and to take his first truth for the last truth.

And that is the question, isn't it? Does Islam over-simplify? Is it accurate to say that in focusing on the one-ness of God Islam starts in the right place, but then stays there and cannot move, cannot develop any further? What do you think?


FrGregACCA said…
Islam, of course, like Judaism, rejecting the revelation of Christ, identifies the unity of Divine Being or Essence with unity of Person, meaning that, for them, because God is one only Being, God must also be one only Person. Connected to this is the rejection, as you have spoken of before, of the fact that God is rational, that the rationality found in, and underlying, the creation is a reflection of the rationality, the Logos, of God. This leads to all sorts of weirdness (just as its Calvinistic and Deistic opposites do).
Don said…
Fr. Greg, it's interesting you bring up the business of Calvinists and Deists.

As far as the Calvinists are concerned, I'd like a decent explanation from one of them as to how their overarching view of divine predestination differs from the Muslim idea of Allah's absolute sovereignty.

Turning to the Deists, I got into a long debate with a Salafi this time last year, and he brought up Deism as akin to Islam. Coming from a long line of Masons, I knew that Deists/Masons a) believe that all religions come from one basic source and b) the god of Masonry--the Deist god--is uncaring and unconnected with his creation. Once I pointed out this and other things, his enthusiasm to connect Deism with Islam waned.

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