Vote for America's future. Vote Green.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Comments on the controversial comments by Pope Benedict XVI:

I've read the text of the address, and what seems to be the problem is a few paragraphs. I have copied the relevant paragraphs below:

"In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

"Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "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."

"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

"As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

"I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 'logos.'"

"This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word -- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. "

While all of Islam is not reflected by their most radical leaders, they certainly are the most vocal at this time. From what I read, the Pope greatly condemned the use of violence to advance religious agendas, and called for more reasoned dialog between the Muslim and Christian worlds. The implied message was a call for their elders to take their youth in hand and set them straight. As a result of this, churches have been burned, a nun far greater than Mother Theresa was murdered, and worse may happen still. More analysis is here, but this should have been a tempest in a teapot. Instead, terrorists are using this as further "proof" of why a jihad is needed. Many of these same groups, if Pope Benedict XVI were to read the weather report, would cite this as a further example of his hatred of Islam. I'm no Catholic, but I think it would be far more accurate to say that Pope Benedict XVI abhors violence in the name of religion, and I'm sure this is a position with which most can agree. I may not always like or agree with Pope Benedict XVI, but I think he had a point.


Sheryl said...

I think I am going to have to read this when I am awake rather than at 2:43AM. Hahaha. I just noticed I had missed commenting on onw of your comments in my journal the other day, so I just wanted to let you know that I hadn't seen it. That's why. Anyway, chat with you later. :-)

1138 said...

I'm not sure the world is ready for this Pope.
Honestly though I don't think the world is ready for any Pope - at least I hope not.
Theocratic leaders of Theocratic nations are a part of of the problem are they not?
When one addresses another in a critical manner, even if it's -intended- to be helpful, everything falls back to the religious morass of faith.

The failure of the Vatican to mediate and end violence in Ireland and England should be used as a guide as to how ineffective they will be with another religion that they have had historical multigenerational wars with in the past.

The Pope's statements from another quarter may not have engendered the fear and hatred that they did - but they came from the Pope and that's why they did.

He must go back to simple pontifications of peace and hope - unless that is he wants hate, death and war.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

At this point, Paul, I'm not sure much of a difference can be found between the current status quo and hate, death, and war. I also disagree that the Pope's statements from another quarter may not have engendered the fear and hatred they did. Salman Rushdie said much the same many years ago, and a fatwa was issued for his death as a result. The polarization has only worsened since then.

GTX said...

The only way to calm down those hate sentiments is religious leaders to give an arm to be twisted (it means against their will) and have a meeting to give a primary signal to all the others religious people who don't believe in this violence. This is the major part, a signal to that common and afraid people by their owns (Algeria), who can feel support trough this way to socially, and in public, recriminate those who speak in violence in a cheap context.
But what we see is pride everywhere and pride it's another sin. So, gathering the top religious people is the primary signal (to me), if they don't feel that way, they gonna have what they seeded.
In this kind of things, no one wins.
Today everybody gives the sectarian interpretation to others words, and some people are very aware this reality and take advantage of that.
They are no kids anymore.

1138 said...


You're so right Rhushdie is the leader of a faith that waged Crusades against the Muslim faith - how could I allow myself to believe that there's a difference between him and the Pope.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Actually, Rushdie's commentary, if anything, was stronger since he himself is a Muslim, and has long been an advocate for reform and an opponent of totalitarianism. I can think of few living people whose courage I respect more. The comparison was the message, not the personalities of the men involved, and that comparison is valid.

Snave said...

You're well aware I have no fondness for religion, so of course my knee-jerk reaction when I first heard the story was "Why on earth did the pope do something that stupid?"

Then, it was revealed that he was only mentioning something someone else had said, and not as an indictment of Islam. Well, no matter to the loons. They were ready to start slaughtering infidels, more so than ever.

I find religion to be a pretty loony thing, but it gets even loonier when people use it to justify violence, wars, suppression of human rights, etc. ad nauseum.

I really don't care one way or another about Christianity itself. I don't like it when people tell me I need to be a believer to avoid hellfire, and I don't like it when people use it to justify violence or achieve political aims. Likewise I really don't care one way or another about Islam. I don't like it when people use it to justify violence or achieve political aims. To me, it's all religion, and I think it's the root of many of the problems in the world today.

1138 said...

Considering that Rushdie's job and the Pope's job are so very different I'd have to say no your use of the two of them is NOT valid.