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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The new Pope has caused a stir by giving a speech in which he quoted a medieval text which stated:


Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

You can read the full speech, here.

Although it has not (yet) reached the level of response caused by the Danish Muslim Cartoons, the Muslim world has reacted forcefully. In some cases, quite literally. Muslims in the Palestinian Territory attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza using guns and firebombs.

Update: Thanks to Carlson for the correction on the national origin of the cartoons.

Update2: Hospital-working Nun and her guard murdered by Muslim gunman in Somalia after arriving to help the sick and infirm.

8 comments:

Not to take anything away from your point, but the cartoons weren't Dutch but Danish. (You might of been also thinking of the Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, who was murdered for making a film critical of Islam.)

Thanks for the correction.

I decided to post comments again. I figure if I say something out of character it'll be obvious it wasn't me.

It's just ironic how some Muslims respond when criticized, even if the criticism is wrong. Let's say someone says, "the Muslim faith is a violent faith." How do some/many of them respond?...With violence. It just doesn't seem smart to respond this way to such a criticism at all. But this is what they repeatedly do.

I rather suspect they were responding with violence, not to the claim that Islam is a violent faith, but to the claim that Mohammed brought nothing new that was anything other than evil and inhuman.

People don't normally like to be called lying human equivalents of the ebola virus; and some cultures take being called a villain and liar more seriously than we do. (Especially when they think the people putting up the charges are themselves the lying, treacherous spiritual ebola virus spreaders. No one has tolerance for ebola. {s})

Jason,

I doubt the Muslim audience is that discerning. And I don't remember any mention of the ebola virus.

The focus of that part of the speech and that cite in particular was the incompatability of force and conversion. The irony should be obvious.

The ebola parallel is my own analogy (which, aside from my occasional use of it elsewhere on this topic, was especially suggested to me by the report of the nun's murder in Somalia).

And I expect Muslim audiences are discerning enough to tell when the person they have been taught must be believed to be speaking truth about God, on pain of unending hopeless torture, is called someone who only introduced evil and inhuman things as innovations (plagiarizing the rest, by implication)--by the modern leader of a group which has a worldwide reputation of having spent some significant effort in the past converting by force. (A topic that I don't recall seeing being brought up by the Pope in his speech, though possibly I missed it.)

The incompatibility of force and conversion, is cited _under_ that overarching category of 'Mohammed brought only evil and inhuman things'. "The Muslim audience" may not have been sophisticated enough to ignore the basic category and focus only on the example given from that category (as if the character of that example _wasn't_ supposed to have been given by the description of the overarching category); but I expect they were sophisticated enough to catch the irony of _this_ person saying such things.


They're taught that unless people believe certain things to be true, then unspeakably horrible hopelessly unending punishment is the result. In short, that anyone teaching anything contrary to Mohammed's witness, is spreading a spiritual equivalent of the ebola virus. _The_ chief religious leader (from their perspective) of the blasphemers against God and the prophet Jesus, thus a chief spreader of this spiritual ebola, has just announced (via an unqualified quote) that Mohammed only introduced evil novelties; taking as this chief's specific example something they believe his group to have commonly done in the past (if not still doing today).

The result really should not be surprising. They aren't violently mad because they were accused of being violent. They're violently mad because they're being accused of being Satanic-level traitors to God, when (according to the best light they can see) they're trying to serve God loyally--and the accusation is coming from the hypocritical leader of their worst enemies (as they see it).

Furthermore, if one of their clerics had said the same kind of thing, it would have been practically a call to get rid of the enemy: because _no one is tolerant of ebola_ (per my analogy. In their understanding, the nun coming to help the sick and infirm was bringing a horrible curse infinitely worse than any physical ailment. They stopped her from spreading an infection and condemning those sick and vulernable people to unending hopeless maximal suffering.)

So, they not unreasonably (from their grounds) figure the language might mean the same thing from Benedict (especially given RCC history).

Honestly, the response could have been (and might still could be) much _much_ worse.

I'd hardly call the ebola reference a parallel.

You seem intent on holding the Pope accountable for actions taken hundreds of years prior and which were followed by years of reform. The Pope, I think, was addressing a present reality (though he has since said that the quoted passage did not reflect his own views). Were the crimes of Catholicism so bad in your mind that they can never voice a moral concern about a present day issue? I doubt that what has the Muslim world agitated is perceived hypocrisy. At least not if we learned anything about the cartoon riots.

There is a fundamental difference in values and outlook in the West, including the Catholic Church. Words almost never justify violence, here. Obviously that is not the case for much of the Islamic world, were insulting their prophet can justify the death sentence.

But I agree. It could get worse. But the moral blame for such an escalation would not be on the Pope, IMO.

{{Were the crimes of Catholicism so bad in your mind that they can never voice a moral concern about a present day issue? [...] You seem intent on holding the Pope accountable for actions taken hundreds of years prior and which were followed by years of reform.}}

Not really. In fact, I'm one of the least anti-Catholic non-Catholics around. {g} (I look forward with some amusement to the day when Joseph Pearce's literary heir decides to write a book arguring that I was either a secret Catholic or would have converted given a few more years or even converted on my deathbed... {wry g}) Apparently, my constant qualifiers of "as they see it" and "in their understanding", etc., meant that I must see things the same way they do??

So, no, I don't hold him accountable for actions taken hundreds of years prior and which were followed by years of reform. But it's important to understand that _these_ people are going to hold Benedict accountable for things his group has done in the past, and/or consider him a hypocrite for denouncing (via quote from a Christian Emperor) such a thing as _being evidence for the rejection of their tradition as evil and inhuman_. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: if spreading the faith by force is to be taken as evidence that the advocator only introduced evil and inhuman things, then why didn't the Pope denounce his own tradition, too? It can only look like a convenient double standard to them.

The key point they're going to be pinging on, is the notion that Mohammed only introduced evil and inhuman things (implicitly only plagiarizing the rest of it.)


{{[The Pope] has since said that the quoted passage did not reflect his own views}}

I know. But his use of the passage in his address then becomes inexplicable. He introduces it as an aside from the outset; and could have made every other point in his speech without it (which speech I otherwise rather admired. {s!}) Even had he still chosen to reference the debate between that Emperor and the Persian scholar, he could have made the connection to the (false) dichotomy between faith and reason without making explicit use of the damning quote--and the quote does, in essence, damn Mohammed.

The question of whether the quote is a true description or not is even beside the point. (I can hardly blame the Emperor for saying that sort of thing, btw, when his city was being beseiged by Muslim expansionists right that very moment.) The point is that it should be no surprise that people who consider their escape from hopeless maximal unending torture to depend entirely on their faithfulness to God via Mohammed, are going to be provoked by a quote given by the religious leader of their traditionally greatest enemy, essentially damning Mohammed.


{{I doubt that what has the Muslim world agitated is perceived hypocrisy. At least not if we learned anything about the cartoon riots.}}

Of course they wouldn't consider _that_ to be hypocritical. Why would they consider a secular (private) publication of a secular state to be hypocritical in drawing a cartoon denouncing Mohammed as a 'bombhead' (so to speak)?? The circumstances are quite different--and far more potentially dangerous.


{{Words almost never justify violence, here.}}

They don't now; but that hasn't always been the case. And if that change indicates a "fundamental difference in values and outlook... including [in] the Catholic Church", then that's another way of saying that the Catholic Church does not have the doctrinal continuity it claims to represent and operate on. If the RCC is _fundamentally_ different now than it was back in the day, then the RCC is not what Benedict is claiming it to be as its chief executive officer (and final human legal arbiter). This isn't like in the Southern Baptist Conference, for instance, where unbroken unity of legitimate authority _isn't_ important to the legitimacy of authority claims of the group today (including interpretation of what Scripture means, and what should and should not be considered orthodox doctrine).

So, this is not a good way to defend Benedict from charges of hypocrisy. {s} It does, however, explain why he could not have drawn a parallel with his authoritative predecessors denouncing them on the same grounds as he (by unqualified quote) denounced Mohammed: he would either have had to admit the RCC lacks the doctrinal (and other historical) unities his church body claims to authoritatively possess; or else he would have had to admit that the tradition he _currently_ acts in representation of, is something that (on the same ground as his quoted denunciation of Mohammed) is also only an evil and inhuman innovation. Either way, he's painted himself into a logical corner.

And _he didn't have to do it_. He overshot the mark by trying to get that one portion into his speech, when it didn't have to be there. He could have spoken around it (or omitted the reference altogether), made exactly the same points he wanted to make in regard to his _main_ theme; and then if commentators (as they likely would have done) flushed up the damning comment from the Emperor, he could have replied that as Pope he would have been irresponsible to present that portion, plus that he didn't agree with the position as stated by that Emperor, etc.

But he wanted that portion in there; so he said it. If it didn't reprsesent his opinion as leader of the RCCs, he should have said so in the speech--though admittedly I don't know how he could have done that without gutting that portion of his point _once the damning clause was introduced_. (Ergo, he shouldn't have used it to begin with.)


{{[F]or much of the Islamic world... insulting their prophet can justify the death sentence.}}

Yes; and there are theological reasons for that, which I've discussed (and which you've dismissed, for whatever reason.) This is where the ebola parallel comes in, which you'd hardly call a parallel. In effect they're inoculating themselves, trying to inoculate other people, and otherwise acting to eliminate risk of infection (analogically speaking).


{{But the moral blame for such an escalation would not be on the Pope, IMO.}}

I'm not sure I'd call it a moral blame myself, either. But he didn't have to make that remark in his speech. Consequently, he's going to share the blame--he ought (in a logical sense, if not a moral one) to have known better.

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