"Now the future is as hidden from us as it was from those fathers of ours who, barely three lifetimes ago, still feared the further advance of the East. But when we consider the major forces at work before our eyes, though we cannot conclude upon their results we can at least estimate their immediate proportion and value. The comparatively recent domination of western Europeans, English and French, over Mohammedean lands, is due to causes mainly material and therefore ephemeral. One must always look to moral (or, more accurately, to spiritual) causes for the understanding of human movements and political change. Of these causes, by far the most important is the philosophy adopted by the community, whether that philosophy can be fully expressed as a religion, or [be] taken for granted without overt definition.
"Now, it is true that on the spiritual side Islam had declined in one factor wherein we of the West had not declined, and that was the factor of energy allied to and productive of, tenacity and continuity of conduct. But on the other hand, in the major thing of all, Religion, we have fallen back and Islam has in the main preserved its soul. Modern Europe and particularly western Europe has progressively lost its religion, and especially that united religious doctrine permeating the whole community, which unity gives spiritual strength to that community.
"There is with us a complete chaos in religious doctrine, where religious doctrine is still held, and even in that part of the European population where the united doctrine and definition of Catholicism survives, it survives as something to which the individual is attached rather than the community. As nations we worship ourselves, we worship the nation; or we worship (some few of us) a particular economic arrangement believed by us to be the satisfaction of social justice. Those who direct us, and from whom the tone of our policy is taken, have no major spiritual interest. Their major personal interest is private gain, and this mood is reflected in the outer forms of government, by the establishment of plutocracy.
"Islam has not suffered this spiritual decline; and in the contrast between [our religious chaos and] the religious certitudes still strong throughout the Mohommadean world ─ as lively in India as in Morocco, active throughout North Africa and Egypt, even inflamed through contrast and the feeling of repression in Syria (more particularly in Palestine) ─ lies our peril.
"We have returned to the Levant, we have returned apparently more as masters than ever we were during the struggle of the Crusades ─ but we have returned bankrupt in that spiritual wealth which was the glory of the Crusades. The Holy Sepulchre has become a petty adjunct, its very site doubtful in the eyes of the uninstructed mass of Christians. Bethlehem and Nazareth are held, but they are not held because they were each the cradle of Divinity. Damascus is held, but it is not held as the key of a Christian dominion, nor is the Levant held as one whole, but divided between separate nations to whom the unity of Europe has ceased to be sacred. We are divided in the face of a Mohommadean world, divided in every way ─ divided by separate independent national rivalries, by the warring interests of possessors and dispossessed ─ and that division cannot be remedied because the cement which once held our civilization together, the Christian cement, has crumbled.
"These lines are written in the month of January, 1937; perhaps before they appear in print the rapidly developing situation in the Near East will have marked some notable change. Perhaps that change will be deferred, but change there will be, continuous and great. Nor does it seem probable that at the end of such a change, especially if the process be prolonged, Islam will be the loser."
~Hilaire Belloc: The Crusades: The World's Debate.