The Secular West’s Impotence in the Face of Radical Islam

We are now aware that a martyrdom of a Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, has taken place in France. It was only a matter of time before ISIS began its assault on Catholicism in Europe, and eventually, the United States. Other than in the Middle East and Asia, Christians have not been the primary target of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. It has largely been secular institutions that have been attacked.  Catholicism in the West is now a target of ISIS. The difference between the attack on Catholicism and the attack on secularism is that Catholics can win this war.

The West is largely impotent in the face of radical Islam. We do not seem to fully grasp this truth. We look to our political leaders for decisive action, but all we seem to get is the occasional air strike and hollow words. We Christians watch as our brothers and sisters in Christ are slaughtered and sold into slavery in the Middle East and Asia. There is no talk of the plight of Christians in Syria, Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia by political leaders in the West. Why? Quite honestly because the West has chosen to abandon its Christian roots for nihilism. (Oh, no. There she goes writing about nihilism again.) Quite frankly, we will never understand what is going on in Europe, and soon-to-be the U.S., until we understand the impotent, deadly, and destructive nature of nihilism that is the predominant philosophical influence in the West at this point in history.

Why is the West’s nihilism impotent in the face of radical Islam? Nihilism is a creed in which belief is predicated upon nothingness. I do not mean that nihilists believe in nothing, although material atheism does tend to occupy the thoughts of some nihilist adherents. Nihilism is the belief in nothing objective or concrete. This is best understood through the creed of relativism: What’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you. This results in philosophical and moral incoherence. There is a reason Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke so much of the dangers of modern philosophies and relativism. Is it possible for all of us to have our own set of beliefs and not impact others? Obviously not. If relativism is true, then it is morally permissible for a jihadi to walk into a Catholic Church and slit a priest’s throat. This is the serious problem we face with secularism and its nihilistic principles. The belief in nothing results in a free for all and objective truth is abandoned. When grave evil rears its ugly head in history, the nihilists either turn a blind eye or end up committing their own evils. The problem is that this incoherence is defended over and over again in our culture. Rugged individualism tears humanity apart because it contradicts our ontological being. I hope this is blunt enough because we have got to get this through our Catholic heads. This is what we are facing in secularism.

Nationalism and democracy cannot possibly confront the grave evil and violence of radical Islam. First, nations cannot seem to come together to confront this evil, which is spreading worldwide at an alarming rate. Since we all have our own set of beliefs we cannot come together to form a solution, whether it be military or diplomatic. Although, in my mind, the time of diplomacy has ended. Nihilism and relativism destroy unity. There is no cause or good to fight for in these philosophies. This is why the West shuffles its feet while thousands are slaughtered worldwide. Second, just battles are waged for a sense of belief in the good. World War II was waged on two unified fronts because the Allies understood the dignity of the human person and the need to defend good. In the West, there is no objective good, so we cannot come together and confront the bloodlust of ISIS.

Democracy, really a Representative Republic or Parliamentarian Republic, are superior forms of government with the best shot at protecting freedoms. History has shown this to be true. The problems within these types of government arise when there is no longer a clear understanding of freedom. Freedom in the West has devolved into an individualistic self-worship that has made our cultures cave in on themselves. Since there is no longer an ordering to the good, there is no way to confront evils such as ISIS while we ourselves murder unborn babies by the millions. Quite frankly, it is time for the West to wake up and see where its philosophies have gotten it. This isn’t a blame the victims at all. This is a matter of survival. If the West wants a chance at winning this battle it has to abandon nihilism and relativism. It needs to turn to its Christian roots.

As Catholics what does all of this mean for us?

First, we need to be working hard at the New Evangelization. Our culture is sick and its only cure is the Living God. The answer to the world’s evils was in the Catholic Church where Fr. Jacques Hamel was martyred. The answer was in the Tabernacle. The healing salve needed by the wounded West and violently divided Middle East is the Holy Eucharist. It is Christ present body, blood, soul, and divinity to us. We have forgotten the spiritual weapons we have been given.

We need to be people of serious prayer. St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the weapon for these times.” That is just as true today as it was when St. Padre Pio walked on this earth. Prayer changes history, it changes hearts, and it changes the world. We must trust in God’s goodness and the power of prayer in the conversion of the West, so that is may be equipped to defeat radical Islam. There can only be one winner in this war. We cannot win without Jesus Christ.

We must live the Christian life. Being Christian is a life-long conversion process. We must do battle with sin and weakness, but we must begin to seriously live a life ordered to holiness. We must truly put Christ and our Catholic Faith first, not our political party, desire for individualism, or material possessions. Our joy should radiate throughout our communities. Holy joy is infectious. It is contagious. People already desire Christ, they just don’t know it, yet. We must show them the answer to that longing deep in their heart that cannot be satiated through promiscuous sex, pornography, material possessions, money, power, adultery, and the list goes on and on.

We must pray for our enemies. Christ compels us to pray for our enemies. It is difficult. It took me 12 years after being a 9-11 relief worker to pray for the hijackers, but it changed me and who knows what else my prayers could have impacted. There is no limit to how God will use us to bring the world into conformation with the Blessed Trinity. We need to pray for the souls of the murderers. Yes! Every single time there is an attack, we pray for all of the dead, including the perpetrators. We must pray for those who are radicalized now. We must pray for peace. We must also pray for the radical secularism that is attacking the Church. Both nihilism and radical Islam are at war with Christ and His Church.

We must start living lives of joyful witness to the power, beauty, peace, joy, and healing of Catholicism. We must share the gift of the Holy Eucharist. We need more Eucharistic processions! We need to take Christ to the people in the West and those trapped in the evil of radical Islam. We have the answer to what is destroying the world and taking so many lives in the process. Secularism, nationalism, nihilism, and relativism have no hope in the face of radical Islam. How could they? They believe in nothing, but their own selfish desires. This is sin. In the Church, we have the answer to sin and it is the Cross and the Resurrection.

We can’t force our leaders to act. We can call and write to them, but in the end we must pray hard for the conversion of the West and those in radical Islam. Most of all, we must start living holy lives, so that God may use us to change the world and bring more souls to Himself. And of course, there are legions of angels fighting alongside of us. I leave you with the St. Michael prayer. The very same prayer my dad sent to me when I was a 9-11 relief worker. St. Michael is a powerful defender and intercessor, which is precisely why my daughter is named after him.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Editor’s note: the featured image is of Jumièges Abbey, which existed in Normandy until being destroyed by the French Revolution. 


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate student theologian with an emphasis in philosophy.  Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths (

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  • Roran

    Excellent. Just what I needed.

  • Mary Carter

    What you have said is true and to the point. It should be said and should also be addressed in our churches. Not a word was said today by the socialist press about our murdered priest in a place that should be safe for all. The socialists totally ignored it and the only news followup was on Fox News which I am now watching to get the truth. We will see this happen if it is not stopped and it will not be stopped while the democrats have the power. Most of our government consists of muslims who hate Christians. They are not in the least concerned about us and whether we live or die.

  • Docent

    Some good points, Constance, but keep in mind that it is Islam qua Islam which provides the foundational support/motivation for Islamic terrorists. There are of course people of a more radical or moderate disposition, but there are no such things as radical and moderate Islam. There is only Islam (NB: Core beliefs are accepted by all recognized “branches” within Islam), and while terrorists must be confronted with force, Islam as an ideology must be confronted and challenged vigorously in the War of Ideas by those who believe that any religion/ideology which calls for the abuse of natural human rights cannot be approved of in any way as a legitimate religion. When it comes to nihilism/relativism, Islam is exemplary in its irrational understanding of God as being capable of acting in an arbitrary manner, and its ridiculous belief in Mohammed as the perfect man and prophet of God despite his record of abuse of basic human rights.

  • Ibn Ishaq

    RIP Fr. Jacques Hamel.
    Welcome to God’s kingdom!

    Side note: to be killed in such a barbaric way, during mass really disturbs me.


    Radical Islamists are becoming the next global cancer.
    Need an urgent solution.

  • Constance

    The Church acknowledges that while other religions are not the fullness of truth, they contain glimmers of truth. God is always trying to reach people. I suggest reading Fides et Ratio and Gaudium et Spes. I will not gloss over a group of people and say all adherents of Islam espouse evil. Are they in error? Yes, but most out of ignorance, which is why we must evangelize.

    The danger of broad strokes is we very often end up being contradictory and presumptuous (there’s that sin of pride we all battle). If all Muslims are somehow formed in a violent Islam, then all American Catholics must be more like Nancy Pelosi and ignore the teachings of the Faith. There are good Muslims seeking truth because we are all made to seek truth. It is our job to show them Christ. Are we doing our job or simply turning them into the “other” so that we can keep them as an enemy and escape our Christian duty?

  • Constance

    It is disturbing and unfortunately it is not the first time nor the last that a priest will be martyred during Mass. I would imagine that if a priest is going to die a martyr there would be no better time than when fulfilling his Sacrament of Holy Orders through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is also quite remarkable that Fr. Hamel’s parish was St. Stephen’s.

  • Constance

    No, our government does not predominately consist of Muslims. It is primarily comprised of nihilists, which is the whole point of this piece.

  • Ibn Ishaq

    Pray to St. Vincent Ferrer.

    He converted thousands of Muslims to Christianity through his witnessing and preaching.

  • Constance

    Excellent suggestion! St. John Damascene is good too.

  • Docent

    Oops. Re-read what I actually wrote, and note the following:

    1. Glimmers of truth are not my primary concern, nor are they the primary concern of the Church. That’s why the Church professes to have the fullness of truth, and why it also points out heretical beliefs and/or false beliefs in various religions and ideologies even while acknowledging glimmers of truth that are only starting points to engage others in order to share with them the fullness of truth without giving them a pass or false praise because they possess mere glimmers. True evangelization is and always has been based foremost on proclaiming the truth. It can be done quite pastorally, but the truth should not be diminished, nor should mere glimmers be given more credit than they deserve…unless conversion to the truth is not really the goal of the evangelization that is engaged in.

    2. I have both read and taught Fides et Ratio and Gaudium et Spes, but thanks for the irrelevant recommendation, anyway, as if I need to read such things to gain some kind of enlightenment you believe I lack and will gain from reading these documents. What’s next – a claim that I don’t understand them well enough since I don’t follow your faulty approach to evangelization? There’s that sin of pride you mention. Check the mirror concerning your recommendation based on a mere assumption which is evidence of painting with a broad stroke from a glass house.

    3. I am most pleased to read that you will not gloss over a group of people and say all adherents of Islam espouse evil. However, as you have claimed to be a wannabe Thomist, try to make the distinction between what is set forth in teachings and doctrines and those who either faithfully or unfaithfully follow such. Then note once again what I actually wrote about Islam qua Islam and individual Muslims. Then observe the presumption in your statements:

    For instance, all Muslims are indeed not formed in violent Islam, and I did not make such a claim, so why set it forth as if I had? This is another classic straw man fallacy argument, which is exceedingly unjust. Also note that there is no such thing as “violent Islam” as if there is also a “peaceful Islam,” and so you have made a similar error to the one that claims there is a “radical Islam” and a “moderate Islam.” There is simply the teachings of Islam wherein some of it indeed calls for peaceful behavior, but there is also a good deal of it that calls for violent behavior, and this is not conditioned by any time or place. In short, such are ongoing marching orders. Thankfully most Muslims do not follow such commands, but these commands are there and operative, and its why terrorists are faithful followers of Islam. Again, if you do not know this, then engage in some serious research regarding the actual teachings of Islam so you can disabuse yourself of the false dichotomies you apply to Islam.

    4. Your reference to Nancy Pelosi and American Catholics based on the faulty reference to “violent Islam” is a non-sequitur that makes no sense, and it is unfortunate that you paint with a broad brush once again. In any case, even if your “if” premise made sense, the conclusion you set forth does not follow from the premise.

    5. Indeed there are good Muslims who seek the truth, and once again I did not nor do I claim otherwise. However, they will not find anywhere near the fullness of truth in the teachings of Islam, and our job in showing them Christ is to show them that He is indeed the Truth, the Way, and the Life. By the bye, Islam rejects the notion that Christ was crucified, and that Allah purposely deceived all Christians and others into believing this. If you were not aware of this, you will find it proclaimed in the Qur’an (Sura 4: Verse 157). So when you show them Christ, be sure to advise them of their significant error in denying the reality of his crucifixion…and resurrection.

    6. Your last paragraph is also irrelevant based on what I actually wrote in my first comment and this one, but there’s that broad brush you like to wield once again to render a false criticism and suggest that I am not following my Christian duty (as you see it) in the form of a rhetorical question that a blind person can see through. In this regard, another person who is perhaps not following his Christian duty as you understand it is Father James V. Schall who has written quite a bit about Islam in the manner I have done here and elsewhere. If you have not already read it, here is a fine article to start with by the good priest: “Speaking Honestly About Islam” (

    Only the truth sets people free. God Bless and good luck in your aspirations. Being a solid Thomist is quite enjoyable and beneficial.

  • Agnes Philomena

    History repeats itself sometimes.

    A European naval armada had to amass on the doorstep of Euope to fend off the Islamic warlords of the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s.

    It took a lot of prayer and blood and sweat and tears.

    In early 1800s when the USA was still recovering from war, Jefferson had to order our Navy to Tripoli to crush Islamist savages, whose bloodlust was spreading enough to affect America adversely so far away.

  • Phil

    I believe the point is that Islam itself is evil. Consider the heresies. These were teachings in error but what was the source of the error? What was the effect of the error? Good does not produce theological error; only evil does. Those who follow Islam inadvertently worship evil. I know we say we all worship the one true God, but what does it mean to worship God? If I offered God the head of my enemy instead of the body, blood, soul and divinity of HIs dearly beloved Son, would I be worshiping God? I think the form and matter of the worship determine who your god truly is. Isn’t this the meaning of the second commandment? It’s more than uttering GD or the like. It is about attributing a false worship to the one true God, something the Isrealites did and something the Muslims do. Make no mistake about it, they say they follow the god of Abraham but they trace their lineage through Ishmael, the wild ass. The character of the god they worship is totally different and their worship is as well. They worship a god other than ours and we need to see that this is a 1500 year old assault on the church. Islam is about lying in wait for the moment to strike. That is what is going on in the mosques all around the world. They integrate and are apparently good citizens but then the author of their religion may use them or their progeny to fulfill his goal. This is why we pray for them because they are the unwitting pawns in a greater, pan-generational strike against the church. God would not want them to be a part of this so we need to show them beauty and truth. We need to learn the short comings of Islam so we can point out the contradictions. We need to pray for the end of Islam and the conversion of all Muslims.

  • Ibn Ishaq

    100% agree.

  • Ibn Ishaq

    Islamist will not relent!
    It’s in the nature to spread and subjugate its host nation.

  • Disqus_disqus

    Thank you.

    It also doesn’t help that the Pope and many in the hierarchy say that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’, blah blah blah.

    Check out this article by Fr. Benedict Kiely, Islamic Reverence Syndrome

  • David M Paggi

    Actually Islam really is a religion of peace – for Muslims, and perhaps for those dhimmis who accept their diminished status with resignation. In Islam, those parts of the world which enjoy the blessings of Sharia are the “House of Islam,” while everywhere else is known as the “House of War.”

    In the West, we are accustomed to associating true peace with personal freedom; in Islam, true peace will only occur when all the world is subjugated into the “House of Islam.” This is why the poster “Behead all who say Islam is not a religion of peace” is not at all self-contradictory, which is quite startling to contemplate.

  • Thomist

    Excellent article. I have posted it to all my friends on Facebook

  • snowy1

    Remember Lepanto!

  • John Clare

    Lepanto was not followed up. It led nowhere. The Ottoman Turks continued to expand for a time.

  • deargdaol

    If Islam is always innately extreme etc., then riddle me this. How is it that Christians, amongst other sizable minorities (20% in Egypt and c5 million in Syria, plus Lebanon etc.), have managed to live relatively peacefully with their Muslim neighbours for around a millenium and a half, but are subject in the last decade or so to the most appalling brutality, confiscation and exile? Me thinks this has little if anything to do with Western ‘nihilism’ (whatever that is exactly) and far more to do with Anglo-American greed and aggression in economics and foreign policy.

  • Guest

    The more patriotic a Christian is the more utterly blind he is to the sins of his ancestors and his country. Radical Islam is a response to what the West has been doing since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. And more he singles out the innocent Muslim as a threat, the more Muslims radicalise and join Islamism. It’s a lose-lose situation according to worldly thinking. Even if you don’t radicalise Muslims the radical ones will continue attacking. The only way to win the cause is to radically live the gospel of love, by behaving as though you were a child of God. Only truly Christian living will convert the Muslims and disprove ISIS.

    Frankly I don’t think many Westerners are capable of this. They want pleasure and not the cross. The boast in worldly power and riches rather than the treasures of the gospel. Perhaps Radical Islam is a tool of God chastise the post-Christian west. The most religious seem to be Warhawks blind to cause and effect. They don’t mind killing innocent brown people so that the nation may survive.