Several times, I have commented that Islam (as practiced in some countries) is not too dissimilar from Christianity as practiced in Europe about 700 years ago. My son made the same observation recently. It's as if there is a natural progression regarding mass belief systems:
- Revelation - a "new truth" is revealed to a "prophet"
- Conversion - new followers spread the "new truth"
- Persecution - existing powers are threatened by the growth of the "new truth" and attempt to eliminate the followers causing the followers to rally around their "new truth"
- Adoption - the old powers reach an accommodation with the "new truth" by adopting it and adapting it
- Growth - rapid expansion of the "new truth"; however, many followers are in name only
- Corruption - the "new truth" becomes secularized and gains ascendency in political power which it focuses on rather than the original message of the "new truth"
- Regrouping - the followers of the "new truth" become so fragmented that political power is disrupted and lost, forcing the followers back to a formalized approximation of the original followers
- Secularization - the "new truth" becomes the "tradition" of the secular society, but without most of the original energy or importance to the followers; there is a "place" for the "new truth" in ritualized gatherings, but the secular society is the focus of the followers.