Did the Pope Shit in the Woods? Or Just on Islam?

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CNN reports on a brewing controversy involving the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI. In a recent speech in Germany,

Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said, "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."

Islamic critics responded along these lines:

"The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) regrets the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed, and what he referred to as 'spreading' Islam 'by the sword,'" a statement released by the OIC on Thursday said.

"The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is 'incompatible with the nature of God' is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history."

(Cough, cough, Steve Centanni, cough.)

But wait, Benedict wasn't even talking to Muslims, said a spokesman. Rather, the pontiff was talking to irony-addled Westerners:

According to Lombardi, Benedict's speech was "a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"

Whole thing here. Benedict should just feel lucky he didn't give his speech as a series of cartoons. Or as a novel.

Equal time for the real and imagined bill of particulars against Roman Catholics, in easy to read comic book form.

Possible feel-good way around this: Joint ritual sacrifice of all Catholics and Muslims involved in producing Kingdom of Heaven.

This is as good a time as any to remember Roger Williams, the great colonial American figure and visionary when it came to secular government and religious toleration. Williams was preaching "soul liberty" for all people, "paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian" at a time when his pal John Milton was pointedly excluding Catholics in his defense of a free press, Areopagitica.

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  1. If we ignore that “Kingdom of Heaven” was overlong, incoherent, badly acted and ahistorical, what exactly was wrong with it?

  2. If we ignore that “Kingdom of Heaven” was overlong, incoherent, badly acted and ahistorical, what exactly was wrong with it?

  3. Now Turkey, a supposed “moderate” Muslim country, is comparing the Pope to Hitler:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060915/ap_on_re_mi_ea/pope_muslims

    Here’s a choice quote:

    “He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world,” Kapusuz blurted out in comments made to the state-owned Anatolia news agency. “It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades.”

    An islamiac accusing someone else of living in the dark ages? Profound. Deeply profound.

  4. Fortunately, Westerners occupy the moral high ground by refusing to say inflammatory things about Muslims.

  5. Disclosure: I consider the Pope’s choice of quotes here to be supremely stupid. I can only hope he was taken out of context.

    But it’s silly to say that Islam wasn’t spread by the sword in its early years. Did it just happen to be practiced in an area coterminous with the boundaries of the Arab empire put together by the sword?

    Of course, the same could be said about Christianity to some extent, both during the late Roman Empire and long afterward when Spain and Portugal acquired their empires. However, there is a significant difference; Mohammed himself was involved in the early spreading of Islam by conquest, whereas Jesus and the apostles weren’t involved in the spreading of Christianity by bloody means.

  6. As I suspected, it was taken out of context. The pope was criticizing the quote, if anything:

    “The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,” the pope said. “He said, I quote, ‘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.’ “

    Clearly aware of the sensitivity of the issue, Benedict added, “I quote,” twice before pronouncing the phrases on Islam and described them as “brusque,” while neither explicitly agreeing with nor repudiating them.

    article

  7. Crimethink,

    Moses, Aaron, and David were most certainly involved in spreading Judaism by bloody means. They seemed to have a prediliction for cleansing areas of nonbelievers so their followers could have lebenstraum. Are you prepared to draw similar conclusions about Jews?

    Personally, I think that that both examples just demonstrate that the religions came to be in violent, barbaric times and places; and that their messages need to be interpretted in that context.

    If you take these sorts of self-aggrandizing wars as the background noise which they were during those periods, then the messages about God wanting you to kill your enemies becomes a message about God’s love for his people and his desire for their success. Similarly, the fact that Christianity was founded by colonial subjects of the Roman Empire changes the meaning of the “Slaves, obey your masters…” statement from an endorsement of slavery, to an exhortation to live peacefully, play that hand life deals you, and keep your mind on spiritual things. Had there been no slavery at the time, this message would have been expressed differently.

    It’s not as if Mohammed and his armies came to be in a sea of peaceful communities.

  8. This is as good a time as any to remember Roger Williams, the great colonial American figure and visionary when it came to secular government and religious toleration.

    Right, since the state he founded is a beacon of light to all of us who wish to live in harmony with our neighbors under an honest government.

  9. t:

    So one should be reluctant to speak the truth because it could potentially be provocative?

    Are you similarly reluctant to speak your views about evolution over creative design, out of deference to christian fundamentalists? Because one can never assume the moral high ground when being “inflammatory”?

  10. Today’s religion will not save you, it will get your ass killed.

    There are no words that can be crafted that will appease today’s religious controversies. The differences are real and threatening. The earth has become to small. It has become a “War of the Gods” (George Perez) starring Wonder Woman. Review Here

  11. Now Turkey, a supposed “moderate” Muslim country, is comparing the Pope to Hitler:

    Well, Mein Kampf is a bestseller over there, so maybe it’s a compliment.

  12. Fortunately, Westerners occupy the moral high ground by refusing to say inflammatory things about Muslims.

    There’s nothing moral about keeping your mouth shut just because a bunch of mouth-breathers enjoy getting each other worked up at the drop of a hat. Quite the opposite.
    http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2006/WORLD/europe/09/15/pope.islam/story.popeprotest.ap.jpg

    Personally, I think that that both examples just demonstrate that the religions came to be in violent, barbaric times and places; and that their messages need to be interpretted in that context.
    Barbaric thought processes (i.e., religions in general) lead to barbaric actions. Vicious circle.

  13. Mr. Nice Guy: “So one should be reluctant to speak the truth because it could potentially be provocative?”

    There are times when truths are better kept unsaid. However, given that the Pope chose these words indicates to me that the catholic church is taking a position. Interesting times.

  14. MNG-

    Always speak the truth, just make sure that you aren’t drawing the wrong conclusions from it.

  15. The comments here run the gamut of what I expected; a few calling a spade a spade, A few looking for context, and a few implying that the Pope’s remarks will justify Muslim retaliation. After all, even though no Pope has declared a Crusade in about 500 years, it is completely comparable to the videotaped rants of Islamic jihadists that are released every day.

    Later today I fully expect to read of churches being burned, and Christians killed, yet I’ll still be waiting for the moderate Muslims to condemn those acts, or for any Westerners to abandon the moral equivalency that is exhibited on every such occasion.

    Every time Muslims riot over some imagined slight against Islam, why is the West obliged to excuse it?

  16. Moses, Aaron, and David were most certainly involved in spreading Judaism by bloody means. They seemed to have a prediliction for cleansing areas of nonbelievers so their followers could have lebenstraum. Are you prepared to draw similar conclusions about Jews?

    Personally, I think that that both examples just demonstrate that the religions came to be in violent, barbaric times and places; and that their messages need to be interpretted in that context.

    Care to point us to a source, joe?

  17. It’s hard-headed, facts-first thinking like that, with its refusal to give into self-congratulations, that has made the War on Terror so successful to date, SFC SKI.

    Keep telling yourself how good you are, and how simple these debates are. It’s worked so incredibly well.

  18. Now Turkey, a supposed “moderate” Muslim country, is comparing the Pope to Hitler

    Somehow I doubt that opinions of a couple of Turkish lawmakers is the same as the opinons of all of the people of Turkey.

  19. Certainly, Val.

    Exodus is a good place to start, with the conquest of Canaan, the walls of Jericho, the extermination of the Amelekites (sp?) and its other bloody tales.

    Deuteronomy, with its exhortation to kill those who engage in acts that were religious practices for other cultures in the vicinity, would another good source.

  20. Barbaric thought processes (i.e., religions in general) lead to barbaric actions

    Sigh.

    Hey Lemur, why dont you jus save yourself the trouble of pretending to deal with any of these ‘god’ stories for what they are, and just post,

    “FUCK RELIGION”

    I dont think you’ve ever said much more than that in all the comments you’ve ever made on these threads.

    JG

  21. moonbiter: Than all the people of Turkey are going to rise up and correct these reckless assertions, right? Or more level-headed Turkish authorities are going to weigh in. Right?

    joe: “The War on Terror” is indeed going very badly. And the reason is simple. You can’t make war on “terror”. It’s an illusion. “Terrorism” is merely a tactic in which beings are resorting to. If one isolates their efforts against a simple expression, instead of taking on the underlying impetus, than it is doomed to failure.

  22. Barbaric thought processes (i.e., racial, cultural, and religious prejudice) lead to barbaric actions.

  23. moonbiter,

    And the pope is not speaking for the chruch?

  24. joe: Indeed, the christian bible is infested with vicious tribalism and ham-fisted demagogy, particularly in the Old Testament and the writings of Paul.

    But let’s get to the heart of it.

    Compare for us the core teachings of Jesus versus the core teachings of Mohammed, particularly the latter part of his reign.

    A good Christian adheres strictly to the words of Jesus, and a good Muslim follows the words of Mohammed to the letter. Correct?

  25. For the record, I haven’t said a word about the Pope’s comments. I’ll need to read them in the full context first.

    I was replying to Mr. Nice Guy, who is in fact a very nice guy in person, even if we get into some heated debates.

  26. Quick show of hands, how many here have actually read the Koran?

    FWIW, I read the Koran earlier this year. The book is full of nuance. It frequently says “You can do this, but only if…and here’s another condition…and keep in mind that…” That doesn’t lend itself to fanaticism. Fanatics need the intermediary of a radical teacher who will conveniently distort it.

    It’s also full of admonitions concerning charity. And even some of the unambiguously illiberal passages are, in context, improvements on the situation that existed before.

    All in all, it’s a complicated read, like any other religious text. To imply that the most illiberal interpretation is the only correct one is basically the same as saying that Eric Rudolph is what Christianity is all about.

    The best and worst thing that can be said about religion is that in attempting to comprehend things greater than ourselves we have found a mirror for the human race. Religion encompasses some of the best and worst things that people have ever done.

  27. “A good Christian adheres strictly to the words of Jesus, and a good Muslim follows the words of Mohammed to the letter. Correct?”

    I dont know what you’re trying to say here, but take a minute and ask, what do you mean by “Good”? = Real? Legit? Card-Carrying?

    And what do you mean by “letter”? Texual literalism? The ‘idea’ in the texts? The rituals that evolved from the cultural tradition?

    For the bajillionth time –

    Christians arent 1 monolithic group of people, and neither are Muslims. Catholics and Lutherans and Jehovas Witnesses and Pentacostalists and Christian Scientists etc etc.. can all have extremely different understandings of what a) the words or Jesus (or anyone else in their texts) mean, b) what the level of significance are – i.e. whether they’re “proscripts” taken literally, or parables to be interpreted through individual contemplation…

    Same for Muslims. And despite these variations, they are all “good” or “real” or “legit” as far as their faith is concerned.

    So your question doesnt really apply in any real context.

    JG

  28. MNG,

    Compare the core teachings of the Penteteuch to the core teachings of the Koran, and Mohammed actually comes across quite a bit better than the Moses/Aaron tradition.

    And yet, Christendom has been much more violent than the Jews from millennia, despite its much more peaceful core teachings.

    There are carvings in Sri Lanka that depict the Buddha torturing sinners in hell. Buddhism doesn’t believe in hell, sin, or torture. Conclusion: it’s silly to attribute the behavior of religious people to the words of their scriptures. Having seen Christians on both sides of so many major debates – slavery, democracy, pacifism, now wealth – and having seen them all point towards passages in the Bible to justify their positions, I can only conclude that assuming a linear relationship between scriptures and actions is a discredited thesis.

    thoreau, I’ve read a couple stories about this now, I still can’t figure out what the Pope was trying to say, and how the anti-Muslim quote was relevant.

  29. “Keep telling yourself how good you are, and how simple these debates are. It’s worked so incredibly well.” – joe

    Actually, when it’s a life or death battle, all of the nuance seems to fade into the background. Whether you care to admit it, the ultimate aim of those we fight is to convert or execute pretty much everyone in the crazed fundamentalist sphere of influence.

    Taking that into consideration, I don’t really have an issue with SFC Ski’s statement.

    As for the Catholic church flinging poo at Islam, well… Neither religion has hands that aren’t dripping with blood, historically speaking. (But when was the last time a Catholic suicide bomber attacked a mosque?)

    At the very least modern Catholicism is a “post-Enlightenment” religion. While there are definitely some very wacky, fundamentalist Christians running around, generally modern Catholicism seems to be doing a better job of adhering to the peaceful principles espoused by Jesus Christ. Wahabbist Islamic nut-jobs, on the other hand, well… they seem to be doing a pretty good “pre-Enlightenment/pre-Apologetics” job of adhering to the most violent bits Mohammed espoused. (See the last 20 years of violent terrorist attacks, for example.)

  30. Thoreau spaketh =

    The best and worst thing that can be said about religion is that in attempting to comprehend things greater than ourselves we have found a mirror for the human race. Religion encompasses some of the best and worst things that people have ever done

    A-fucking-men.

    I wish i could have said this 2 years ago, and just repeated the point ad nauseum whenever the God-Piniata comes out on H&R.

    you do your namesake proud.

    JG

  31. Thoreau,

    GILMORE said it! Great post at 10:33!

  32. thoreau,

    Speaking of religion, I saw an article reviewing the book, The Trouble with Physics, which addresses, among other things, the problems with the popularity of string theory. Here’s the money quote(s) from the article and the book:

    String theory now has such a dominant position in the academy that it is practically career suicide for young theoretical physicists not to join the field,” Smolin writes. Yet since string theory became ascendant about three decades ago, “there has not been a single genuine breakthrough in understanding of elementary particle physics.” Not only is string theory rife with malarkey about imperceptible dimensions, Smolin fears, it may be holding back legitimate science.

  33. “Good” is a very poor and confusing term for me to use. Please allow me to resubmit:

    Yes, many criminals committed atrocities in the name of Jesus. Were they being true to Jesus?

    Countless thugs commit atrocities in the name of Mohammed. Are they being true to Mohammed?

    Should the actions of a violent “fringe” be confused with true adherents? Should this distinction be made?

  34. Should the actions of a violent “fringe” be confused with true adherents? Should this distinction be made?

    Um, obviously yes.

    PL-

    First, when Smolin says that it’s career suicide for theoretical physicists to not work on string theory, he’s referring to people interested in quantum gravity. I’m a theoretical physicist who does calculations to model tumor growth and the performance of novel optical devices.

    Second, although I graduated from Santa Barbara, where string theory is all the rage, my impression is that it isn’t quite as dominant as he makes it out to be.

    That said, I’d agree that string theory has a lot of problems. Maybe the biggest problem is that some of the most prominent and outspoken people in the field think that we can abandon experimental testability. They may not speak for everybody in the field (I won’t conflate Susskind with ordinary string theorists, just as I encouraged MNG to not extrapolate from a handful of people to an entire religion) but (1) It’s troubling when the leaders of a field encourage such sloppy practices and (2) It does speak to the tough problems they’re facing.

    My own, non-expert view is that string theory is based on the leap of faith that we can somehow learn something about phenomena that are orders of magnitude away from anything we’ve ever explored, simply by extrapolating from what we do know. It’s a dangerous way to do science.

  35. Sheesh, Muslims are sensitive little critters, ain’t they?

    Who knew?

  36. Clarification:

    “Yes” on making the distinction, “no” on confusing the two.

  37. thoreau,

    My feeling is that string theory can be a useful exercise that may help us stumble towards the truth, but I share your reservations about what its proponents may be doing to the scientific process. However, the more we understand about physics, the more the new stuff will resemble math theory and even philosophy. Though I hardly think we’re done learning about the universe or even close to done. Why, we don’t even have warp drive yet! 🙂

    Oh, and Easterbrook may be overstating the case a bit, since it’s obvious that physics is a broad field than encompasses much more than what he describes in his article. From the outside, it does appear that string theory is pushing out other avenues of research into reconciling general relativity and quantum mechanics, but I’m sure that’ll change if string theory doesn’t offer up some experimental successes or predictions sooner or later.

  38. PL-

    Heresy alert: I don’t see why we should worry about reconciling general relativity and quantum mechanics. We have very little data on phenomena where the two theories meet. It seems to me that there’s more than enough experimental data on other systems to provide theoretical physicists with lots of interesting things to do. It’s one thing to work a little bit ahead of the experimentalists. It’s quite another thing to work in realms where the experimentalists are unlikely to venture for decades. I mean, it’s a fun exercise, but the real fun is when theory meets data.

  39. thoreau,

    It’s not heresy. While chasing Einstein’s dream of a unified field theory (or whatever one wants to call it) is a lovely proposition, as far as we know today, there’s no reason to think accomplishing that goal will radically change physics. Maybe it will, but it shouldn’t be the central point of research. From what little I know, it seems that the problems arise in singularities and other places that have little bearing on our lives. So far, anyway. While theory is lovely, I’d like the focus to be on physical theories that result in technological advances. But I’m selfish that way 🙂

  40. Man’s inhumanity towards man. The greatest irony of them all.

    Didn’t Christians burn people for actions they couldn’t explain in the 1600s? I think there is a museum in Salem MA.

    Few religions, if any, do not have blood on their hands. Non-religious humans also. Claiming X did Y in Z time is really irrelevent. It’s not about the past.

  41. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man?s enemies will be the members of his household.

    Matthew 10:34-36 NASB

  42. rob, I’m not denying that there are good and eveil in the world. When it’s a life and death battle, it actually becomes more important to make sure your understandings and actions are grounded in the facts, not less so. There are actually other dynamics going on in this world than whether someone is good or evil. Grasping this fact, and operating accordingly, can be quite helpful if you actually want to defeat evil, rather than just proclaim your own goodness.

    Mr. Niceguy, are Jews and Christians who manage to restrain themselves from stoning adulterers being true to the teachings of their religion? As a matter of fact, they are. There is more to a religion than a handful of scriptural references that someone trying to make a point carefully selects for his own purposes. You tell me, is the Muslim who follows the exhortations to respect People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and the instruction not to spread Islam by the sword being more true, or less true, to the religion than one who zooms in on the passages calling for war against infidels?

    The answer is that they are both being true to their religion, because religion is not cotermimus with the language in scriptures. Given the apparent contradictions in most holy scriptures, it cannot be.

  43. To clarify the above *metaphor*…the remainder of Matthew 10:36-40 NASB

    “…for whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
    and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

    Obviously it’s all entirely literal.

    JG

  44. Screw the Turks and Islamofascists in general. They DEMAND an “apology” after they blow up our buildings, trains, and innocents in suicide bombings? They cut off heads in their outrage!

    The Pope said it like it is.

    This is WWIII folks. If you don’t see it that way now, you will in the near future when the stakes are much higher.

    It is better to act on it now then when Iran or other Islamofascist nations get the A-bomb.

    It is time to put our butts on the line and be done with it now. Send in more troops to put this war to an end with VICTORY!

    As for the Pope, he speaks the TRUTH !

    And Islam is a religion of violence. It spawns it in their theological schools throughout the Middle East. Hatred against Jews and Israel– Hatred against Western Civilization– Hatred against Christians– Hatred against America and their values–

    These people, don’t respect life at all.

    And we should “respect” them…

    HA !

    Send them to hell soaked in pig fat…

    Callforjustice911

  45. i would like to point out something: there is a tendency in modern understandings of religion, especially amongst what might be called mainstream liberal protestantism, to treat everything as metaphor. for this agnostic, that seems to remove some of the point, though it adds quite a bit of fun in studying religions.

    as with the above quotes, the entire point is that god and christ need to be the primary point from which someone moves, supplanting the family, the state (and associated fear of death and torture by state authorities) and the like. to treat it as otherwise in intent is to put one’s hands over one’s eyes and to treat religion less seriously than perhaps it needs to be treated.

    of course there is a multitude of practitioners in the same faith who don’t even recognize each other as anything but heretics and foul betrayers; that is, again, part of the fun of studying religion. but a sword, indeed.

  46. “There are actually other dynamics going on in this world than whether someone is good or evil.” – joe

    Sure, and i would argue that the good/evil dichotomy is actually false and that it’s all about self-interest and self-preservation.

    “Grasping this fact, and operating accordingly, can be quite helpful if you actually want to defeat evil, rather than just proclaim your own goodness.” – joe

    Actually, war is one of the few times when things boil themselves down to simple choices. You fight those who want to kill you and either 1.) die fighting or 2.) kill those who want to kill you.

    Which side is good or evil is a determination I try to leave to God, and I hope he/she/it takes the decision seriously and after much weighty consideration.

    But the bottom line is that someone who wants to kill you and completely re-make the world in a way that is fundamentally contradictory to how you and most of those in your nation choose to live is still a black and white choice:

    They want you dead or converted to a theocratic dictatorship. Hmmm… You can either fight and try to kill them first, or you can die or be converted. Not a tough call, in my not-humble-whatsoever opinion.

    See, it really IS pretty simple…

  47. They want you dead or converted to a theocratic dictatorship. Hmmm… You can either fight and try to kill them first, or you can die or be converted. Not a tough call, in my not-humble-whatsoever opinion.

    OR, you could realise that the likelihood of your being killed by them is about the same as the likelihood of a comet’s landing in your breakfast and decide that living a life ruled by irrational fears just isn’t worth it.

  48. If you desire: Qur’an (translation)

    Scroll down for the chapters.

    Bible (NIV)

    I might be helpful to use specifics when explaining the beliefs of Islam or Christanity.

  49. The fervor grows: Here

  50. Sorry, joe, get your troll food from someone else.

    The debates are far from simple, but the sooner people recognize that Islam’s founder did call for conversion or death, and that Islam is not a religion of peace as practiced by some, the better. It’s obvious that not all Muslims swear by jihad, otherwise there would have been no end to war since the days of Mohammed, and countries wiht large Muslim populations would be at war now, or completely Muslim.

    Also, the war against jihadists is not to convert them from Islam to any other religion, it is to either discourage them from using violence, or killing those who refuse to foreswear violence. These fanatics have made it clear that they will kill or die to bring about a way of life that they feel is right. We must be equally adamant that we will not surrender to them.

    Doesn’t the fact that some Muslims are asking that western style democracy and law, which have worked pretty well in their slow evolution towards the 21st Century, be replaced by Sharia law, which is barbaric as practiced by its strictest adherents? It won’t always be conquest by force of arms, it will also be by a slow steady erosion as we give up the freedoms that make western civilization something worth living in, in order to accomodate a group that will do nothing to accomodate our freedoms.

    Islam has never had a Reformation, and its most violent advocates hold to its strictest, harshest interpretations.


  51. You tell me, is the Muslim who follows the exhortations to respect People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and the instruction not to spread Islam by the sword being more true, or less true, to the religion than one who zooms in on the passages calling for war against infidels?

    The answer is that they are both being true to their religion, because religion is not cotermimus with the language in scriptures. Given the apparent contradictions in most holy scriptures, it cannot be.

    Are u suggesting then that the ‘one who zooms in on the passages calling for war against infidels’ is equally valid in his interpretation as the one who chooses the more liberal approach? What exactly is wrong then with the Pope’s comment? The pope simply speaks of those who choose the more violent interpretation, for they were the once who spread Islam, not the ones that chose to respect People of the Book

  52. rob,

    Your brainless enthusiasm sounds like a great way to lose a war. Which, come to think of it, we’ve been doing a lot lately, since Jesus’ own president came to town.

    “They want you dead or converted to a theocratic dictatorship.” They, who? See, now you either have to actually put some thought into how the world actually operates, or you get a whole lot of people killed without accomplishing anything. Hey, that sounds familiar.

    A slight humility of opinion, the kind that doesn’t excluse the possibility that you might not immediately know the truth based on your feelings, is actually a good thing.

    val, first, I didn’t comment on the Pope’s statements, other than to say I didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Second, what does “equally valid” mean? Measured how? By conformance to the Koran?

    SFC SKI, wrote: “Doesn’t the fact that some Muslims are asking that western style democracy and law, which have worked pretty well in their slow evolution towards the 21st Century, be replaced by Sharia law, which is barbaric as practiced by its strictest adherents?” What? What is the rest of that sentence? Doesn’t the fact that some Muslims did X…what?

    Frankly, I suspect that this is more of a logical problem than grammatical.

    “its most violent advocates hold to its strictest, harshest interpretations.” You don’t say.


  53. val, first, I didn’t comment on the Pope’s statements, other than to say I didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Second, what does “equally valid” mean? Measured how? By conformance to the Koran?

    In your opinion Joe, to whatever measure of validty you hold dear.

    The reason I ask is because your arguments always seem to fall onto moral relativism.

    Compare the core teachings of the Penteteuch to the core teachings of the Koran, and Mohammed actually comes across quite a bit better than the Moses/Aaron tradition.

    And yet, Christendom has been much more violent than the Jews from millennia, despite its much more peaceful core teachings.

    What you are saying is that even Judaism is open to same dual interpretation as is Islam, in fact you suggest that the Moses/Aaron tradition is more violent. And yet you allow that despite the fact that Judaism allows both interpretations, the jews (ancient religious jews) had chosen a more peaceful way. Christianty went through a violent schism and has reformed itself for most part, (like someone mentioned earlier a Pope has not called for a crusade in how many centuries) while Islam is still stuck to this day in a violent backwards funk. So, yes, to most people Islam is definetely not the religion of peace,infact its something quite the oposite.

  54. “They, who?” – joe

    You’re kidding, right? Terrorist jihadists, like the ones who keep attacking the U.S. and who use an extreme fundamentalist approach to their faith as an excuse. And you’re calling me “brainless.” That’s rich.

    “A slight humility of opinion, the kind that doesn’t excluse the possibility that you might not immediately know the truth based on your feelings, is actually a good thing.” – joe

    Wrapping one’s self in faux-humility, the kind that tries to pretend that nuance means fanatics who want you dead will change their minds, is actually a foolish thing. One thing i’ve never accused you of is humility, joe. Lecturing me on it is pretty ironic.

    “See, now you either have to actually put some thought into how the world actually operates, or you get a whole lot of people killed without accomplishing anything. Hey, that sounds familiar.” – joe

    Define “a whole lot.” Is that like, say, 2,948 dead like 9/11? Or is a whole lot like 62 million like WW2? Either way, a failure to experience violence directed at you personally seems to be the core of your blind spot on this issue.

    I suspect that is the result of drinking too much political Kool-Aid. Why do I think that? Well…

    “Your brainless enthusiasm sounds like a great way to lose a war. Which, come to think of it, we’ve been doing a lot lately, since Jesus’ own president came to town.” – joe

    Your optimism regarding what Al Gore or John Kerry would have done in Bush’s stead is impressive, but frankly I’m cynical enough to believe that we’d be in Iraq & Afghanistan regardless of who won in 2000 and 2004. Weren’t JFK and LBJ both Democrats? Didn’t they preside over massive troop build-ups in Vietnam? Don’t bother to answer, that’s a rhetorical question. Democrats and Republicans are exactly alike by any metric that actually matters…

    Honestly, I think you need to put some thought into your position on this – pragmatic thought, rather than politically clouded thought. When politics run counter to self-preservation, it’s probably time to give politics a rest.

    As for that crack about losing wars…
    Face it, the military is for breaking things and killing enemies with as little damage to itself as possible. Nation building just isn’t its forte and I’m OK with that.

    You don’t lose wars by demonstrating a willingness to find and kill your enemy. Quite the opposite in fact. Which course are you advocating? Oh, yeah, the one that encourages jihadist jackasses to believe that the U.S. won’t even try to retaliate beyond a half-hearted cruise-missile strike. (The recent Hezbollah response is very telling in this regard: “We didn’t expect Israel would actually come after us for attacking them and kidnapping their soldiers!”)

  55. Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said, “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.”

    Wonder what the current Byzantine emperor thinks about this. Or, hmm, how on earth did those minarets show up around the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople?

    As much as I hate to admit it, cultural relativism in this context amounts to a death wish. Especially for western Europeans. Their relativism is not reciprocated.

  56. Thanks for the proofreading; I’ll try again.

    “Doesn’t the fact that some Muslims are asking that western style democracy and law, which have worked pretty well in their slow evolution towards the 21st Century, be replaced by Sharia law, which is barbaric as practiced by its strictest adherents?” What? What is the rest of that sentence? Doesn’t the fact that some Muslims did X…what?”

    What I meant to ask was this: In 500 years, Western Civilization, specifically Europe, has managed to develop societies that are not perfect, but generally adhere to a humane rule of law based on freedom to live as one wishes insofar as that does not interfere with the life of another, and equal treatment under those laws. Now there are some Muslims who wish to impose sharia law in thier communities in Europe. This law is based on Koranic revelation and tribal custom from over 1000 years ago. It’s stricitest adherents do not allow for deviation from those laws, and the punishments outlined often go against the laws and protections that we in the West enjoy. Does that not give you cause for alarm?

    I am pleasantly surprised that there haven’t been any riots reported yet.

  57. val,

    “In your opinion Joe, to whatever measure of validty you hold dear.” I don’t think that any religion that doesn’t proclaim that we are created in God’s image and have a responsibility to show God’s love to each other is valid.

    “while Islam is still stuck to this day in a violent backwards funk.” Well, some Jews chose violence, some Christians chose violence, and some Muslims chose violence. There don’t seem to be a great deal of the latter in the United States, for example, and yet our Muslims seem to be quite observant and serious about their religion, despite adhering to the same scriptures and religious tradition. Yet further evidence against your “scriptural determinism” argument.

    rob, “Terrorist jihadists, like the ones who keep attacking the U.S. and who use an extreme fundamentalist approach to their faith as an excuse.” You mean like the Iraqi government? You’ve certainly got this image of what your enemy looks like in your mind; that’s not really the question, we all want to fight “terrorist jihadis.” The issues are who they are, and how to fight them – issues that you, once again, don’t seem to want to put thought into.

    Here’s a hint: if you find yourself under the impression that the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand that terrorist jihadis are evil and need to be fought, it’s probably not the other guy who’s misunderstanding.

    “You don’t lose wars by demonstrating a willingness to find and kill your enemy.” Too bad you’ve yet to demonstrate any willingness to find your enemies, or even begin to think about how to go about doing so.

  58. SFC SKI,

    “Does that not give you cause for alarm?” Indeed it does. That’s not where we diverge.

    Our disagreement is this; you think the rejection of human rights and modernity among a number of Muslims is an unavoidable aspect of being of the Muslim faith, or of coming from an Arab, Persian, North African, or other culture from the Greater Middle East. In other words, those people are that way because they are Arab (or whatever) Muslims.

    I disagree. I think the experience of Muslim immigration to, and acculturation within, American demonstrates that devout Muslims from Arab cultures are quite capable of embracing modernism and liberalism, just as much as anyone else, while still being observant Muslims and living lives that make their old-fashioned grannies proud of them.

    I am glad to see that you, unlike rob, are at least theoretically open to the possibility that it is possible to differ with your opinion on the nature of the terrorism problem without being blind to the reality that one exists.

  59. Our disagreement is this; you think the rejection of human rights and modernity among a number of Muslims is an unavoidable aspect of being of the Muslim faith, or of coming from an Arab, Persian, North African, or other culture from the Greater Middle East. In other words, those people are that way because they are Arab (or whatever) Muslims.

    I disagree. I think the experience of Muslim immigration to, and acculturation within, American demonstrates that devout Muslims from Arab cultures are quite capable of embracing modernism and liberalism, just as much as anyone else, while still being observant Muslims and living lives that make their old-fashioned grannies proud of them.

    I don’t buy it. Engage these Muslims who seem so assimilated about homosexuality or atheism and see what kind of response you get. These beliefs are not a threat when Muslims or Arabs are the minority but wherever Muslims are a majority or close to it they’ve been shown to be opressive and violent.

    The reason that America doesn’t have the same problems as Europe with their Muslim immigrants is because Americans, for all their faults, at least have some fucking balls. In Europe if some slum wants to impose Sharia the idea is treated with respect. Not so here.

    I bitch about the piety and the herd mentality of Americans but when I see the shit that Europeans let fly and know that it can’t happen here I feel as patriotic as a bible belt flag waver.

  60. Intolerance is hardly written into anyone’s DNA. Middle Eastern Muslims aren’t inherently intolerant. They’re simply taught to despise people who differentiate from the norm. Witness the man- and woman-on-the-street opinion among most Arabs and Persians who agree that homosexuals should be executed.

    Islam is also not specifically the problem. Muslims in most part of sub-Saharan Africa are relatively laid back. My Senegalese hosts in the summer of 2001 had no problem being tolerant and friendly to Westerners or Christians. They also had no problem with women exposing their breasts, exposed knees were another story.

    I’m not convinced that American Muslims are magically modernized or liberalized when they set foot in this country. Many of them choose to move here to get away from the “Arab Nightmare.” The rest gradually become (relatively) liberalized over a couple of generations.

    It’s true that terrorism hasn’t killed many of us, and likely never will. It’s also true that many more Americans die in car accidents every year than will ever die in terrorist attacks. However, my car doesn’t hate me, and want to kill me, for being a Western temptress slut. Excuse me if I get a little more worked up about The Terrists.

  61. Well, I see your point. I do not believe that Middle Eastern Muslims are incapable of living in, or dealing with, a western democracy. I have been very careful in my statements not to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

    I do believe that the Muslim immigrants who wish to step back into the past, and take the Western rulle of law and democratic freedoms with it, need to be resisted, not accomodated.

  62. It’s all rather silly.

    Once again, folks are making an unholy stink about things they know nothing about.

    The Pope’s speech is about the place of theology in university, and whether faith is compatible with reason.

    …Theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

    Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.

    It is also about violence and faith.

    Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

    and

    …not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.

    Worldwide rage: The Satanic Verses, the cartoons, and now the Pope’s speech.

    A pattern is beginning to emerge.

    Take something neither you nor your audience has seen or read, pull a quote out of context, and whip everyone into a frenzy of self-righteous paranoid rage.

    The goal? Stifling freedom.

  63. “Barbaric thought processes (i.e., racial, cultural, and religious prejudice) lead to barbaric actions”

    and the 20th century proved CONCLUSIVELY that religion is neither sufficient nor necessary for barbaric actions, since the majority of government sponsored slaughter (see: Stalin… see: Mao) was imposed by atheist/a-religious leaders/regimes.

    some people love to blame religion. it’s such a classic canard “all the wars… blah blah blah” and SO john lennon “imagine no religion”, but it’s so absurd

    people can be vile mass murderers. religion merely, in some cases, offers an excuse to do so. but of course the VAST majority of religious people do nothing of the sort, and imo (based on the historical record) religion has, in general, been an overwhelmingly positive influence.

    furthermore, the primary difference between the stupid equivalence of abraham et al and the current “islamofascists” (semantics ALERT) is that the latter are spreading their religion by the sword NOW vs. many centuries ago.

    trying to draw a moral or historical equivalence is thus completely absurd.

  64. “OR, you could realise that the likelihood of your being killed by them is about the same as the likelihood of a comet’s landing in your breakfast and decide that living a life ruled by irrational fears just isn’t worth it. ”

    and the REASON that is the case is that we are actively constantly breaking up their cells, thwarting their planned attacks, and STOPPING their conpiratorial murderous plans BEFORE they are executed – 911 being an obvious COUNTEREXAMPLE.

    PRIOR to 911, the “risk” (using your “logic”) of a jetliner crashing into the trade center was exactly ZERO percent.

    because it hadn’t happened before, there was thus no risk

    yours is a ridiculous reactive logic that says that since we are (relatively) successful at thwarting terrorist attacks, and the war of islamists on the west is still nascent (and by THEIR self-admitted proclamations is onyl at the beginnign and will get much worse), that this threat is static and small.

    it’s an incredibly myopic viewpoint.

  65. Chalupa,

    “Engage these Muslims who seem so assimilated about homosexuality or atheism and see what kind of response you get.” Eh, do the same thing with Scots-Irish Pentacostals. Our country manages to get by.

    SFC SKI, “I do believe that the Muslim immigrants who wish to step back into the past, and take the Western rulle of law and democratic freedoms with it, need to be resisted, not accomodated.” True, but remember – cooption and converstion (to liberal democracy, not Christianity) is a form of resistance. While some people find it less emotionally satisfying than beating their chests in weekly meetings of the Mutual Admiration Society, it has proven to be the most effective method, and the near-complete absence of violent Islamism among American Muslims demonstrates.

    “I’m not convinced that American Muslims are magically modernized or liberalized when they set foot in this country.” No, Erika, it’s not magic. It’s gradual and pedestrian, just like the acculturation of every other ethnic group that has come to this country. But it has the supreme virtue; it works.

    raymond,

    What you are describing is quite real, and quite correct; those with a political agenda are taking words out of context in order to whip up a large part of the public into hatred of a pre-chosen enemy by using the decontextualized statements to paint the speaker as hostile to that public. We see a great deal of this in our own election campaigns. And as in our own election campaigns, the key to defeating those who engage in this practice is not to declare everyone they convince to be beneath consideration and part of the problem, but to fight back with symbolic and substantive appeals to that population.

  66. See, I told you the Saracens were going to nuke Rome!

    Either that or something abut Napoleon…

  67. In fairness it might be that the Pope was insensitive, not to the audience, but to the ears of the world.

    He writes his own speeches and a 2005 AP story stated: “Ratzinger, a theologian more accustomed to lecturing to doctoral students than preaching to pilgrims…”.

    Collectively, we have only the fragrance of enlightment, not the flower itself. Those that could lead us there are anchored by the ignorance of the masses. Slowly we grind on.

  68. those with a political agenda are taking words out of context in order to whip up a large part of the public into hatred of a pre-chosen enemy by using the decontextualized statements to paint the speaker as hostile to that public.

    OK, I’ll bite.
    If you’re talking about the Pope, I highly doubt he intended this quote to incite hatred towards Muslims.
    If you’re talking about hawkish Republicans, they don’t typically use out of context quotes to strike fear into the hearts of the public.
    If you’re talking about media quotes of Islamic reactions to the Pope’s speech, those remarks are pretty blatant, so it’s hard to believe they’re out of context.
    If you’re talking about people on this forum taking you out of context, this forum is not read by a large part of the public.

    Or did you mean something else?

  69. The only question in my mind is whether Bill Donahoe will defend what the His Holiness really said, or just what everybody thinks he said…

  70. Muslims are now rioting and attacking churches. They’re going to keep beating us up until we ‘admit’ that they’re peaceful.

  71. I am a gay Catholic priest and must speak out about the Pope?s position on homosexuals entering the seminary. This is absurd. To many people, the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the culture of Catholicism is HYPOCRISY. This allows Catholics to live a life which is totally inconsistent with their supposedly deeply entrenched values. The confessional helps this process a lot. Let me share a secret with you. I have been to many gay parties where there were there were drunken Catholic priests telling hilarious stories of what they heard in confessions. Great fun this! And it is not uncommon. After all, it is estimated that about one third of Catholic priests are active homosexuals, and another significant group consists of pedophiles.

    Have you ever wondered what the Pope does for sex? There are no women around as far as I can tell. Does he masturbate ? – probably. Why are there so many handsome young men in the Vatican, eager to please their masters? Wet dreams perhaps? – no, he is too old for that. Gay sex with a close companion? Sublimation? I doubt it; he is and has been an integral part of the established hypocritical culture.

  72. Have you ever wondered what the Pope does for sex?

    I thought that’s what Maria Monk’s convent was for.

  73. SFC SKI wrote:

    “…I do not believe that Middle Eastern Muslims are incapable of living in, or dealing with, a western democracy. I have been very careful in my statements not to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

    I do believe that the Muslim immigrants who wish to step back into the past, and take the Western rulle of law and democratic freedoms with it, need to be resisted, not accomodated.”

    “Resisted, not accomodated”….

    HOW ABOUT WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH !

    Esepcially those that are at so called “Holy War” with the West.

    When are we going to wake and face the facts. These miscreatants are not worthy of life, the right to breath the same air as us.

    They don’t even respect the gift of life to live it. Instead they blow themselves up taking as many innocents as they can… All in the name of their un-holy “god.”

    They want WW III. And maybe we should recognize that wish and give it to them now… Before they get the A-bomb and use on our cities.

    Then maybe we might wake up and face the fact that this IS WW III.

    We have the upper hand, and we can win…

    But I can’t predict what will happen should we not wake up.

    Callforjustice911

  74. Well, that went downhill fast.

  75. Well, that went downhill fast.

  76. Well, that went downhill fast.

  77. Well, that went downhill fast.

  78. I am a gay Catholic priest and must speak out about the Pope?s position on homosexuals entering the seminary. This is absurd. To many people, the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the culture of Catholicism is HYPOCRISY. This allows Catholics to live a life which is totally inconsistent with their supposedly deeply entrenched values.

    If being a homosexual in a church that has consistently been against homosexuality for 2000 years isn’t hypocrisy…well, then someone’s going to have to explain to me the meaning of the word.

  79. I anyone out there is willing to learn the truth, simply read some of Craig Winn’s 1000 page book entitled “Prophet of Doom”. Can get it on the net at prophetofdoom.net. Take a little time to read how he spent his time and efforts to research the subject. After reading what Mahammed’s closest friends have to say about him and other subjects from the Koran, Hadith, Sharia, Muslim & Bakari. Those are the 5 Islamic books Winn used to enlighten us all about the “religion of peace”.

  80. by the way, callforjustice911 is right on the mark on this subject, whether any of us is willing to face the facts or not. Better get educated before it’s too late.

  81. Thoreau wins the thread.

    “The prayer that man should make for good, he maketh for evil; for man is given to hasty deeds.”

    Quick, name the holy book, no fair cheating.

    Try this one…
    There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.

    Here’s another:
    You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.

    And one more to end on…
    Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

    This is not about religion, but the behavior of those that lose their way. It is not new, and not special to our times.

  82. “You mean like the Iraqi government? You’ve certainly got this image of what your enemy looks like in your mind; that’s not really the question, we all want to fight ‘terrorist jihadis.’ The issues are who they are, and how to fight them – issues that you, once again, don’t seem to want to put thought into.” – joe

    Apparently the fact that I disagree with you is evidence, at least in your eyes, of my unwillingness to think about who we are fighting. As a guy who has been to Iraq, I can assure you that I’ve given more thought to who the enemy is than you have.

    “Here’s a hint: if you find yourself under the impression that the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand that terrorist jihadis are evil and need to be fought, it’s probably not the other guy who’s misunderstanding.” – joe

    joe, here’s a hint in return: the fact that we disagree is not a difference in amount of though but in perspective. We probably agree on a lot more than you think. But I think that no matter how I define who we are fighting you are going to claim that I’m just not thinking about it hard enough. That’s really just claiming that I’m too dumb to attain your elevated level of understanding. No offense, but I think it’s a bit dense of you to claim that you’re smarter than the rest of us.

    Y’know, like you do with this ad hom nonsense: “Too bad you’ve yet to demonstrate any willingness to find your enemies, or even begin to think about how to go about doing so.”

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