Attacking Christianity: By Way of Islam

  • Stephen Paul Foster
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 154)


Gibbon contemplated the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780 with considerable disdain and some personal uneasiness. To his stepmother he wrote: “[a]s the old story of Religion has [caused] most formidable tumults in this town, and as they will of course seem much more formidable at the distance of an hundred [miles], you may not be sorry to hear that I am perfectly safe and well: my known attachment to the Protestant Religion has most probably saved me.” (Letters-G,II, 242, original italics) The rioters, perhaps along with Hume’s literary assistance, had conjured up in Gibbon’s imagination the ghost of Oliver Cromwell. “[F]orty thousand Puritans such as they might be in the time of Cromwell have started out of their graves.” (Letters-G, II, 243) Gibbon had a new, very practical reason to celebrate his recantation of Catholicism of many years past.


Seventh Century World Religion Original Italic Semitic Language Western View 
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  1. 1.
    For a short, fascinating account of the Gordon riots, see, Dobson Austin, “The Gordon Riots,” in Twentieth Century Essays and Address, ed. William A. J. Archbold (1927; reprint, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1970) 82–104.Google Scholar
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    With the use of this terminology Gibbon carries on the Christian tradition of falsely attributing to Muslims a worship of Muhammad analogous to the Christian worship of Christ. See Lewis, “Gibbon on Muhammad,” 61. “Then, by false analogy, they [Christians] called them Muhammadans and their religion Muhammadanism, on the totally false assumption that Muslims worshiped Muhammad as Christians worshiped Christ.”Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Paul Foster
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA

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