What "Golden Age"?
Of all of the lies told by Islamic apologists to defend their chosen "religion" - really a political ideology, and a particularly violent and noxious one, wrapped in the mantle of faith and ritual - one of the absolute worst is the notion that the Islamic world was responsible for the preservation of the philosophy, science, mathematics, and culture of the Greeks and Romans, and brought that information over to the backward, intolerant, and bigoted Christian West.
The claim is that, essentially, the Renaissance only happened because of the Islamic world's role in preserving ancient knowledge.
This claim is categorically false.
To understand why it is false, we must first understand the wider background of the problem. You see, the entire history of what we now regard as the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, and the early Renaissance period is simply flat-out wrong.
If you went to high school in Europe or the USA, your instruction in the thousand-year period of history ranging from the Fall of the Roman Empire, c. 476 AD, to the beginning of the Renaissance, starting somewhere in the late 14th Century (very roughly speaking), goes something like this:
After the Fall of Rome to the barbarians, Western Europe entered into a prolonged and terrible Dark Age, in which civilisation crumbled and collapsed, superstition ran rife, and the Catholic Church did everything in its power to keep the people blind, deaf, and dumb. Fear and intolerance were the order of the day. Outsiders were shunned, the ancient knowledge of the Greeks and Romans was completely lost to history, and the magnificent works of engineering and infrastructure built by the Romans crumbled into ruins.
This carried on for several hundred years, until contact was made and trade was established between the tattered remnants of Europe and the growing Islamic power in the East. The exchange of trade resulted in a transfer of knowledge from East to West that slowly dragged Europe out of its state of decay and into the Middle Ages. Islamic scholars preserved the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and translated the works of Aristotle in particular from the lost Greek into Arabic. When these works were transferred back to Europe, especially after the fall of Byzantium in 1453 AD, this kicked off the flowering of Europe into the Renaissance.
So, really, the entire advanced state of the modern Western world is due to Islam.
It's all bunk. And it took me the better part of ten years to figure out just how badly I had been lied to.
Here is what actually happened, in more or less summarised form.
It is indeed true that the Fall of Rome presented a clear break-point in the history of Europe. However, it was not quite the cataclysmic Fall that most of us were taught in high school. In reality, the (Western) Roman Empire had been in a state of advanced decay for the better part of nearly 200 years.
The true "Romans" - that is to say, Italians native to Rome and her neighbouring cities - had pretty much stopped breeding. The Roman Empire had been going through a severe fertility crisis since the peak of Roman power back in about 120 AD - caused in no small part by the widespread prevalence of abortion and infanticide. This decay resulted in a major influx of "barbarians" - Gauls, Goths, and others - into the frontiers of the retreating Empire, and the immigration crisis of the late 4th Century simply accelerated the problem. By 378 AD, the mass immigration of over 200,000 Visigoths into the Empire had resulted in the death of the Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianopole and the effective "Germanisation" of what was left of the Roman Empire.
And by the time of the Fall, most of the once-"Roman" Empire was actually profoundly Germanic in character.
But the Goths were not just sitting around picking the bones of the Roman carcass clean. In fact, the Visigoths - unlike their much more backward cousins, the Ostrogoths of the east - were largely Christian (though they largely followed what we today regard as the Arian Heresy, not Nicene Christianity). And as time went by, they became true inheritors and successors of the Roman Empire.
The Visigothic kingdoms that sprang up throughout Gaul, Germania, and Iberia were profoundly influenced by the science, technology, and culture of Rome. This, combined with their Christian faith and the establishment of trade relations with the flourishing Eastern Roman Empire, which eventually became the Byzantine Empire, resulted in a true "mini-Renaissance" that propelled Western Europe along from the 5th to 7th Centuries without much by way of interruption.
The Visigothic kingdoms were advanced, enlightened, Christianised, and (for the most part) stable and well-governed. They had learned the lessons of Rome's decline and fall well, and tried to avoid repeating many of the mistakes of their forerunners.
Yet it is beyond dispute that some sort of Dark Age did, in fact, take place. There is clearly a massive contraction in population, economic activity, and wealth to be found in the archaeological evidence of the first millennium AD. As Henri Pirenne demonstrated in the early 20th Century, the records buried beneath the ground show a rapid and catastrophic decay in terms of overall health, wealth, and well-being of the population of especially coastal Europe, taking place around 700 AD.
So what the hell happened?
One word: Islam.
You see, what actually happened is that Islam surged out of Arabia, conquered - or was subverted into - Persia, and then began waging a long and terrible war upon the Byzantine Empire. All of this took place between about 650 and 710 AD. During that relatively short time, Islam captured and conquered most of Persia, Egypt, north Africa, most of the Levant - including of course Jerusalem - and pushed the Byzantines back all the way pretty much to what is now modern Turkey.
The first wave of Islamic jihad was an absolute catastrophe for both the Visigothic kingdoms, and the Byzantines. For the former, though, the loss of Egypt in particular was a truly terrible disaster. The conquest of Egypt meant the sudden and nearly complete loss of papyrus - at that time, the most widespread and useful writing medium available.
It was this loss that resulted in the contraction of knowledge and expertise observed during the Dark Ages. All of a sudden the most important source of knowledge transmission was removed, and scribes and scholars were forced to use parchment instead - remember that the discovery of paper from China was still a good 600 years in the future - which is vastly more expensive and difficult to use, since it is made from animal skins.
The relentless wave of Islamic expansion carried on through Spain and Andalusia, conquering and destroying the once-great Visigothic kingdoms of that time, and was only finally stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD - and thank God for that, because if Islam had carried on throughout Europe, Christianity might just have been snuffed out completely.
Now, it is certainly true that at one point in time, the Islamic empire was more advanced than Europe. But in light of the facts above, why do you suppose that was the case?
First, because early Islam was profoundly Persian in character, not Arabic. The Arabs had virtually nothing of consequence in terms of knowledge or skills relative to the Western world - but the Persians had a civilisation which was, at the time of the first expansion of Islam, at least a thousand years old and extremely advanced. They had been conquered by Alexander the Great and as such were profoundly influenced by the Hellenistic Age. Their knowledge of physics, mathematics, astronomy, and various other scientific disciplines was on par with that of the Byzantines by that point.
There is a considerable body of evidence that indicates that early Islam was nothing much more than a particularly nasty strand of reform Judaism and was adopted by a Persian emperor, Chosroes II, at the behest of his very beautiful wife Shirin. The "Arab" conquests of early Islam were actually Persian in nature, an inconvenient fact for later Arabic rulers and caliphs who scrubbed this knowledge out of their official histories.
(This idea sounds far-fetched - until you realise that the modern Left has done exactly the same thing with the history of Fascism. If modern liberaltards can deceive themselves into thinking that fascism is a right-wing philosophy, which it patently is not, then do not put it past the Arab caliphs to do the same.)
The second reason why Islam was more advanced than Europe by the 8th Century AD is because, well, that tends to be what happens when one warlike civilisation crushes and conquers another flourishing but weaker one. It is kind of difficult to maintain advances in mathematics, science, philosophy, art, and architecture when you are rather more concerned about simply staying alive.
And the third major reason is because the early Islamic empire basically conquered huge territories of more advanced civilisations - and thereby suddenly accumulated the knowledge, experience, skills, and works of the foremost scholars of that time. Some of the world's best mathematicians, architects, engineers, and doctors - many of whom were Jewish, in fact - found themselves under Islamic rule. And Islam gives "the People of the Book" - Jews and Christians - precisely three options:
Convert to Islam; pay the jizyah tax and live a degrading life as a second-class dhimmi; or die.
Given this set of choices, it should be in the least bit surprising that many scholars and thinkers of that time chose to become Muslims.
Now it is usually at this point that the Islamic apologist points out that Islam produced fine thinkers and philosophers like Avicenna, Averroes, and Algorezmi (Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, and al-Khwarezmi, respectively). And that is true. They did exist.
Just one problem: they were all either Persian or Iberian.
And there is one other rather large problem that Islamic apologists refuse to face. It comes in the form of a legendary tract called The Incoherence of the Philosophers, written by a chap named Muhammad al-Ghazali - Persian too, by the way - who vehemently rejected the arguments of more liberal scholars of his time, including Averroes, that the nature of Allah, their "god", could be known through empirical and logical methods of inquiry. Algazel's rebuttal stated that the world is the way it is because Allah decrees it to be so; Allah can change his mind at any time; and any investigation into Allah's nature is haram (forbidden) and heretical.
This argument was enthusiastically accepted into mainstream Islamic thought, and there it has remained ever since.
That was nearly a thousand years ago - well after the initial conquests of Islam, well after Islam had taken over vast tracts of formerly Christian lands, and well after the first Islamic empire had reached the peak of its power.
Does that sound like a philosophy that would have kicked off the Renaissance in Europe a few hundred years later?
The precise causes of the Renaissance are complex and varied, and I do not have sufficient time to go through them all here. But it is worth pointing out that the standard history that we were taught in high school is simply wrong.
Here are two different perspectives on the same subject that come to the same conclusions. First comes one from an atheist:
It is to be noted that Sam Harris's arguments leave a lot to be desired as well. He is flatly wrong in condemning the Christian kingdoms of Europe for being backward and intolerant; a closer look at the evidence tells us that, even when Christianity was under threat of near-annihilation, the Catholic Church and its various fraternal orders were doing everything that they could to preserve and protect human knowledge and bring freedom to the peoples of Europe.
But his criticism of the addle-pated notion of the "Golden Age of Islam" is otherwise pretty accurate.
Now let's take a slightly different look at the same issue:
And there you have it. The "Golden Age of Islam", simply wasn't. It was largely a myth, manufactured by Islamic scholars, with precious little by way of actual evidence to back it up.
It does not matter where we turn; the "magnificent civilisation of al-Andalus", for instance, was quite simply nothing of the sort. The true history of Islam is one of rapid conquest and extreme violence, right up until the unstoppable force of that barbaric creed meets an immovable object somewhere and is stopped dead in its tracks. At that point, the Islamic world immediately goes into severe and prolonged decline, and its supposed "superiority" is revealed to be nothing of the sort.
This has happened at least twice before - Charles Martel stopped Islam once at Tours, and Jan Sobieski and his allies in the Holy League stopped them again at Vienna in 1683. Thank God for those two men and what they achieved; without them, the light of Western civilisation might well have been snuffed out completely.
In the end, the true history of Islam's "Golden Age" shows that we have been ripped off and lied to by those that we trusted to teach us the truth. This is neither new nor surprising to anyone in this part of the 'Sphere - most of us got here because we could plainly see that much of what we were taught as "true" was a flat-out lie.
That is why it is so important for us to question, to teach ourselves, and to reject outright anything presented to us as "truth" without ample evidence to back it up. Unless we comprehensively reject and destroy these lies, we will never get anywhere in our long and difficult quest to take back Western civilisation.