Sunday, September 17, 2006

That Was Not a “Blunder.” It’s Just An Excuse to Kill Infidels

Manuel II PalaeologusOther than look at the headlines and check Memeorandum to see what themes are developing, I’ve avoided reading any details about the latest Papal smackdown. The headlines are familiar, the pictures of howling mobs of Muslims are by now simply stock photos, and in the end, I notice that no one is actually reading Benedict’s speech from Regensburg — or rather, they’re excerpting the “juicy” parts and leaving the rest. A waste, really.

What is striking (so to speak) about the various reactions to the Pope’s address is the level of naïveté on all sides of this debate. Among both his adversaries — who delight in this purported “blunder” in Benedict’s talk, and his defenders — who lament his indiscretion, there seems to be an assumption that this intelligent, scholarly, and historically informed speech was a mistake, an unintentional gaffe.

Riight…sure it was.

The predictable (and by now exquisitely boring) outrage of the vaunted “Muslim street” is evidence of either (1) their stereotypical hysteria and the over-the-top strategy they employ at the slightest provocation, or (2) further proof of the hyper-vigilant hysterical paranoia that pervades a dysfunctional and homicidal culture. In other words, it’s either the sly application of taqiyya, or it’s mass insanity. Take your pick. Personally, I opt for “crazy like a fox” when these folks start foaming at the mouth and issuing fatwas and burning crosses, for heaven’s sake. What they’re really doing here is softening us up, making the mayhem look like normal behavior.

The MSM pontificating is also boringly predictable. Does any sane person care what The New York Times has to say on this issue? The tropes trotted out by the usual suspects have become so familiar by now that we can recite the jabber right along with these talking/writing heads. They have all the depth and breadth of a Gilligan’s Island episode, and none of these “journalists” ever step out of character, or say anything surprising. Like teenagers who have seen every episode of Gilligan umpteen times, we can recite the MSM litany right along with them — though perhaps with less evident glee than they evince when some event generates orchestrated crises, giving them the opportunity to…to pontificate. In fact, if the ability to pontificate were the only requirement for the job, we’d have been saying “Pope Dan Rather” a long, long time ago.

These first two groups -Muslims and the MSM — can be safely ignored. Neither has anything to say that they haven’t already repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseam. In fact, if the Muslims and their rage disorder didn’t exist, the MSM would have had to invent them just to stay in business. Otherwise, when the Muslims aren’t raging, the MSM is reduced to dreary and dire prophecies about, oh, the economy (bad), the environment (the sky is falling), the poor (mistreated), the entitled (not enough programs), the Republicans (lack of ethics), the oil shortage (greedy Americans), the coming Avian flu epidemic (we’re all going to die), or, scraping the bottom of the barrel, sophistry and ignorant political philosophy by our current crop of “entertainers.” Come to think of it, perhaps the blowhard imams are largely creations of the al-Frankenstein MSM. Certainly the media have made the imam business a growth industry since 9/11.

But what is of real concern is the group of commentators, sincerely distressed, who perceive Benedict’s speech as a “blunder” — one for which he must now abjectly apologize.

Nonsense. So Turkey is reneging on the up-coming Papal visit? They don’t want him in their benighted, bloodied country? Odd, considering that it was a a native-born Turkish terrorist who tried to assassinate John Paul:

On 13 May 1981 John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish gunman, as he entered St. Peter’s Square to address an audience. Agca was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas 1983, John Paul II visited the prison where his would-be assassin was being held. The two spoke privately for 20 minutes. John Paul II said, “What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.”

Now maybe there were abject apologies and letters of condolence pouring in from all over the Ummah for this almost-fatal attack on the Pope? Perhaps as he was recuperating from his six hours of surgery, the Turkish ambassador to Italy tip-toed into his room with posies and apologies? If so, the MSM didn’t cover that part of the story.

And don’t you wonder how the story of John Paul’s pardon of his would-be assassin played in Ankarrah? That is, if it even played at all.

The best thing one can do in the current contretemps is to read the whole speech, all the way through to the addendum at the bottom. As you do, take into account its context: Benedict was returning to the scene of his years as a young scholar filled with the excitement of university life. His opening remarks are full of nostalgia for the memories of an earlier, more civil and united academic world, one where theology had at least a minor place in the cosmos of the university. That world has disappeared.

1959 was a time of ferment in theology, and nowhere was that more evident than in Germany. As anyone studying the subject in the U.S. during the sixties and seventies can tell you, not knowing how to read German was a distinct disadvantage for serious graduate work in the field. Whether it was scriptural exegesis or moral theology or ecclesiology, the liberal Germans led the field. Not that there weren’t shining lights in other countries — Yves Congar’s ideas about “the priesthood of the baptized” had their moment — it’s just that the critical mass of original thinking in theology was taking place in Germany.

And that was the milieu in which Benedict — Father Ratzinger — lived and moved and had his being. A scholar of history and theology, he was at home in Regensburg and Bonn, immersed in his teaching and studies. Do you think he ever gave room to dreams about his place in the history of the papacy? Somehow I doubt it. Not then, anyway, when the university was his home.

This man was and is a scholar right down to his marrow. He is a careful thinker steeped in the history of his church and of his world — in his case, the history of Western Europe. He has probably forgotten more about both subjects than you and I will ever learn.

The Papacy is not monolithic. John XXIII was not an intellectual, though he taught for a time at an Italian seminary. Roncalli was a diplomat, and used his offices in Greece and Turkey to save many Jews. Even the French loved Roncalli, the son of sharecroppers. On the other hand, Eugenio Pacelli, his predecessor, came from a long line of Italian aristocrats. As introverted as Roncalli was gregarious, Pius XII had the unenviable task of pulling the Church through the Second World War and beyond. Had they not had their vocation to the priesthood and their respective papal appointments, their paths would never have crossed.

Benedict, of course, is German, and again as different from his predecessor as were Pacelli and Roncalli. But John Paul was Benedict’s friend — to the extent that Pontiffs have “friends” and it is thought that he hoped Ratzinger would succeed him. John Paul knew their deep differences in outlook, but he trusted the process and the person to meet the coming crises. While this speech would never have passed John Paul’s lips, one can surmise that he knew this confrontation was inevitable for whomever followed him.

If you would understand the context of this speech, Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections, you would do well to read Ratzinger’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” in order to see the edifice upon which he is building his rôle during the time allotted him in office.

“Deus Caritas Est” — “God is Love” — is a logical predecessor to “Faith and Reason.” The latter is not an encyclical, but I’d wager that it is the prologue to just such a work in the future. Love, the experience of love, is primary. It precedes reason. Love is necessary but for a fully formed faith it is not sufficient. Thus Benedict points out that Logos (whose connotation includes ‘word’ and ‘action’) is the very beginning…of everything. This idea, the opening to John’s gospel (probably written on the island of Patmos) is in keeping with the Christian belief that human beings, being made in God’s image, respond reasonably to what they perceive as God’s action in the world.

To that extent (and to many others), Judaism and Christianity converge. But Benedict’s point is that the Church not only flows from Jewish scripture, but is also inescapably and profoundly Hellenistic in outlook. For better or worse, Paul preached to the Greeks and to the Hellenized Jews, and it was this strand that survived after the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the diaspora not only of Jews, but of the Jerusalem branch of the Church. The Jerusalem church, Paul’s thorn, ceased to exist.

Benedict briefly passes over the Roman contribution to Christian praxis (e.g., Canon Law) in order to dwell more fully on Greek philosophy’s impact on Christian belief. That is his point: Hellenic reason in tandem with Jewish faith created the synthesis that became Christian thought.

Benedict is too thoroughly a historian to pass over the contradictions and tensions that arose from this syncretism. He outlines briefly three strands of “de-Hellenization” that have brought the Church to grief:

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history — it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a deHellenization of Christianity — a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the programme of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

The three stages Benedict outlines begin in the Reformation in the 16th century, followed by the liberal theology of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — the theology of Harnack, its leading expositor, who drew from Pascal and Kant. Benedict says that as a young professor he tried to counter these ideas in his inaugural address at Bonn but one could infer that he didn’t think he was successful. Of this second strand, he says:

…any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be “scientific” would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by “science”, so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective “conscience” becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

And the third strand of the Church’s dehellenization? It is this:

In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary enculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that enculturation, in order to enculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

What does Benedict mean here? In my opinion, he is referring to the necessity to refrain from incorporating animism, ancestor worship, or other tribal beliefs and customs that confront the Church in Africa and the Far East. But who knows? For certain, he will let us know in subsequent speeches and encyclicals.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re wondering where the meat is here. Where is the part of his address that has left the Ummah with a virulent case of the violent vapors? Why are they shredding this speech with their teeth, rage dripping from their tongues?

Benedict’s confrontation with Islam — which he sets up as a foil to explain the notion of reason vis a vis faith — is his reference to a passage by Professor Theodore Khoury in which he sets down a dialogue from 1391, during one of the sieges of Constantinople by the Muslims, between the Emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian Muslim. Bear in mind Benedict’s motive: he is going to clarify the necessity for reason, and to do so he chooses this dialogue as his jumping off point. It is a time-honored rhetorical device he employs here:

It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between — as they were called — three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point — itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole — which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H — controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this 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 Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “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, after having expressed himself so forcefully, 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”, he says, “is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) 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 practise idolatry.

So, according to Benedict, the Emperor was startlingly brusque when he expounds on “on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence.”

1391. Over six hundred years ago. That is Benedict’s point. Except for Islam, the world’s religions have changed and evolved. Islam, still a tribal, ahistorical and literal belief system based on what one does, has not changed. And it has foresworn reason as one of its attributes. Belief is not discussed, it is practiced in minute detail. You have only to look in on the questions the average Muslim has about the minutiae of daily life to understand the tragic and unanswered demand for security. At the whim of a capricious Allah, and an even more capricious desert environment, what recourse does a Muslim have but to attend to the details? And what room is there for a maturing of moral reasoning in this system?

Unfortunately for Islam, it simply conquered, subdued, and killed or converted those in its path. It never absorbed from the surrounding culture. Such absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, no?

But then who could tell a caliph that and live to say anything else?

And how can the world continue in the face of a murderously angry, envious and resentful culture like Islam, frozen as it is in 7th century thinking?

The Holy Jihad will make Christians pay dearly for Benedict’s presentation. Bringing that 600 year old conversation to the light will cause the deaths of many.

Does that mean we should keep silence? No! Jihadists are killing Christians and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus and animists. Then the Sunnis will start killing the Shi’ites and vice versa. Keeping quiet will protect no one.

No, Benedict didn’t “blunder.” He said what he meant and he meant what he said.

Let the fatwas begin.


Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Alternately, the Vatican can be viewed as a snake pit of intrigues, in any case bumblers don't become pope.

As a deliberate provocation its absolutely brilliant. Its not a proposition that can be rationally argued against easily, but accepting such a position is very un-Jihad. The muslims promptly prove the point by going crazy again. The MSM defending the muslim position are going to have to tie themselves in knots trying to excuse violence as a reasonable response to a man who merely said violence is not the answer... very interesting.

I wonder, if the pope publically spent and ceremony time blessing for instance UNIFIL (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God") would the Islamists go overboard screeching "CRUSADE"?

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good post, Dymphna. I had no idea that you were so learned in theology.

Anyway, I also think that the Pope was not blundering -- though he might not have expected the emperor's words to be taken so literally as his own, especially since he implicitly put great distance between his own position and that of the Byzantine emperor.

The distance is even greater in the original German.

In my own blog entry for today, I've called on the New York Times to apologize for insulting the Pope.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

dirty dingus said...

It seems to me that the pope spent most of his time criticising the secular relativists
and some of the time hitting out at what I read to be primarily Christian fundamentalists, the side swipe at Islam was, IMO, a warning to the more fundamentalist christians to not go down that path than anything else.

(Much) more detail at my blog

Zonka said...

Very good and insightful post, I have a slightly different view on the intentions behind the Pope's speech over at my blog: The Pope and Islam II.

Epaminondas said...

Great post dymphna except for one thing..interfaith reasoning and discourse , to be successful, must have as at least an imginary objective a meeting of minds and hearts.

That is not the case here.

Every intersection of (XXX religion) with Islam can end only in the supremacy of Islam, or god is requiring the usual panoply of rolling heads since he/she has been necessarily insulted. The headlines BORINGLY indicate this is the objective reality anytime some people seem to feel slighted.

For 3-4 years now I have felt there is little to discuss with regards to the arabs and Israelis.. I now see this is truly the case among (XXX religion) and Islam.

There's no point in having faith be a crossing point of discussion since any heart to heart will only result in either a polite acquiescence by the other religion towards the agressive response, or outright belligerence at the end. Excepting of course those muslims whose conscience is so assertive that most of their compadres would find them apostate.

All I seek is a way to avoid killing each other, or being compelled to finally advocate the killemall approach (ironically something I first heard Don Imus exclaim to John Mccain about 20 minutes before the first plane's interfaith discussion with the WTC).

I would be most happy if we can just achieve that minimal goal. I am not optimisitic.

Zerosumgame said...

I think that apart from being JP II's preference to succeed him, the Cardinals also felt that Benedict was probably the best candidate to take on the Church's biggest threat at the time of his succession -- Islam -- just as they thought JP II was the best man to take on the greatest threat to the Church at the time of HIS succession -- Communism.

The problem of course is that Benedict was 78 at the time of his succession, while John Paul II was 58. The actuarial tables make it unlikely that he will be around long enough to fill the College of Cardinals with "his" men, as John Paul was able to do.

If he lives to 85, he will have been Pope 7 years; enough time to start the Vatican on the road to hardening the church for a long assault by Islam, but not long enough to complete the transformation. Therefore, the most important thing Benedict will need to do is groom an ideologically similar successor, at least 20 years younger than him, to allow the Church to face the long haul.

And this does not even address the two other major threats to the Church:

1) The loss of Western and Central Europe due to Marxism and demographics.

2) The massive loss of Latin American Catholics to Evangelical Protestantism.

To address #2, and being conscious of #1, he will need to groom Latin Americans and East Europeans to be future leaders of the Church, and end the hegemony by Western European Archbishops. Just as the Church had to accept the loss of its birthplace, the Levant, to Islam, it will have to do the same for Western Europe. I don't see anything stopping it.

eatyourbeans said...

Ben's got my vote, but I could do with a pinch more militance. That Christianity forswears violence may be so in the Bible, but it sure isn't in our history. Our good and beautiful West was built on reason, faith, and bloodshed, duly blessed and sanctioned by the Church. It's the truth and we handicap ourselves in this war that is fast upon us, when we apologize and get hang-dog about it. So, your Hoiliness, next time a little more of The Song of Roland , a little less of the peace and love pap. Deus vult, dude.

Dymphna said...


I read an interview with Ratzinger about ten years ago in which he said Europe was a lost cause, that Africa and Asia were the future. So maybe he's "grooming" one of them?

I'd like to see a Chinese Pope myself. Same impact as a Polish pope.

Gypsy Scholar-- I thought of you when I was hunting down an English version of this speech. I figured you'd read it in the original...lucky dog!

dirty dingus-- I thought the address was much more carefully crafted than that.

fellow peacekeeper -- "a snake pit of intrigues?" Ah, yes...'twas ever so. Wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, at least two are vying for power. That's why the concept of "original" sin appeals to me....there appears to a fault (as in "a chasm") in the human character into which our fear drives us.

I think it was a deliberate provocation, too, but I'm too simple-minded to guess at what is probably a complex motive.

Your idea about the Beatitudes is interesting. One could do a whole list of the perversions of the UN.

georgesdelatour-- An intriguing proposition. Which Mohammed would they greet? The young, powerless one, or the older, bloodier one? Mohammed is certainly unique among spiritual icons for having made his living as a brigand. But that's tthe Beduoins for you. Paul as a tent-maker and Jesus as a carpenter and Buddha as a rich man all pale in comparison.

OTOH, I don't find Bush, et al "loathsome," though I disagree with some of their strategy. It would be perverse not to respond to 9/11 militarily.

I think that like Lincoln, Bush will be honored and hated a hundred years from now. And people will be questioning the competency of his generals. OTOH, I feel confidence in the rising group of colonels and lt. cols to eventually lead us out of the desert -- we aren't leaving any time soon, not unless technology improves energy supplies.

Prodicus said...

Thank you very much for this. On the immutability of Islamic thought, I wrote something along similar lines here.

The Pope was aiming primarily at materialist, positivist philosophers, whom I have long blamed for both the success of the march into Europe of Islam and the almost total take-over of the universities by Marxism-lite, and only tangentially at the problem of Islamic thought and the consequences of its mass-importation into Europe - which is not an accident, given the political dictatorship of the post-modernists. (It was appropriate that he chose to address his remarks to a university). I have long believed, having read his writings over the years, that this is a major preoccupation of his thought and work. When I heard he had decided on 'Benedict' as his papal title, I thought 'Ah, yes - of course'.

Profitsbeard said...


A superb summation of the central dilemma. Kudos!

Let those who would answer a complex and loving critique -of spiritually illegimate un-'holy' violence- with more violence be shown as the intractable, irrational fools they are.

The Pope has pulled away the delusional veil that the intellectual cowards in the West have been trying to pull over the face of intolerant and imperialistic Islam for decades.

(When do we ever hear preachments about Love or forgiveness or repentence from any 'cleric' of Mohammadism?)

Bravo, Benedict!

moif said...

Religion is ideology. Nothing more. For all the big words and scholarly learning, it answers nothing and Ratzinger's accusations against science are merely the erudite complaints of a man who has no answers himself.

The Muslims are fools who bask in ignorance and consider it a virtue. Their anger is merely a pretext, a method by which they can affirm their belief in nothing under the vain assmption that actions translate into meaning.

Da Bear said...


Your insightful, meaty, liberating article is wonderful Sunday morning fare. Like eating a flacky buttery croissant, each bite or paragraph gives the reader an additional unexpected burst of flavor. GOV has become a gourmand experience for my intellect.

"The predictable (and by now exquisitely boring) outrage of the vaunted “Muslim street” is evidence of either (1) their stereotypical hysteria and the over-the-top strategy they employ at the slightest provocation, or (2) further proof of the hyper-vigilant hysterical paranoia that pervades a dysfunctional and homicidal culture. In other words, it’s either the sly application of taqiyya, or it’s mass insanity."

This is terrific writting...connecting divergent dots with humor, intellectual honesty, and passion is rare gift indeed.

Da Bear

James Higham said...

Dymphna - you're an interesting person. I've just read your Normblog interview and had feared you'd interviewed him, which is my next task. I notice one of your commenters is my fellow blogger Prodicus. Now to your post. Benedict didn't blunder. He did if he has retracted and I'm currently reading through le figaro and spiegel in my poor French and German becasue they've intimated he's fallen back. Hope not. I've also run pieces on the biz today.

Freeman Livingood said...

The Pope is on the right track. If his words insight predictible violence, maybe it will help wake up the rest of the world to respond to these barbarians in like kind. It's the only way to combat this movement.

I recommend the use of humiliating cartoons to accomplish the same goal. Americans, et al, must be stirred to react in like kind. I explain further at my blog,

In Russet Shadows said...

It does not surprise me that Muslims react to pleas for non-violence with violence. It also does not surprise me that Muslims respond to speech with calls for censorship and death. What does surprise and distress me is how subservient and how cowardly the West has become, as if nothing is more important than physical existence.

It is far past time to plow the earth with the bones of these hateful murderous men. Are we waiting for our own destruction, half-hoping that it will come to our successors, or to some others not as fortified as us? If not the U.S, then Britian; if not Britian, then Italy; if not Italy then Spain. We stand together or we will be severed separately.

I do not know what it will take for the West to see itself as one, nor do I know what will shut up the Islamic tears and injury circus. However, I do suspect that a monthlong bombing mission over Gaza will give them something else to do with their time.

X said...

He's on to a good point, too. The idea that Science explains how things work is sound and reasonable, and no christian would want to dispute that. THe problem these days is that a lot of "scientists" are reverting to a time when science wanted to explain why things work. I know it sounsd like semantics but there's a world of difference between the how and the why. How is the realm of science, and Why is the realm of religion, and never the twain shall meet... :)

But that's by the by.

Prodicus said...

Apologies for a broken link I posted earlier. It is

ziontruth said...

The Pope has struck a raw nerve; the Muslims are to fault in having a religion with so many raw nerves.

At times, especially recently, Judaism and Christianity have been at odds with the modern [mis]application of reason and the idolization of it (as rationalism) and of science (as scientism). But the days of 19th-century pamphleteers speaking of "the contradiction between science and religion" or "...between reason and religion" are over, because the value of science and of religion has been deflated back to their normal size as tools rather than saviors of humanity. Jews and Christians are mostly back, then, to regarding reason (and science) as going hand in hand with religion.

But Islam cannot go back to such a state, because Islam has never been in it. Islam cannot be reconciled with reason, because the very foundation of Islam does not lend itself to rational discourse. As I wrote in a blog post last month, Judaism and Christianity can take their claims of divine revelation to the historico-rational court, while Islam cannot. Judaism is the model, offering a number of witnesses to G-d's revelation the likes of which have never been offered elsewhere; Christianity, though it offers less witnesses to its founding claim (the resurrection), still holds to that path of enabling historico-rational debate. Not so Islam: the Koran is claimed to have been revealed to one person, with no other parties witness. Islam lacks a foundation of reason, lacks debatability for its claims, therefore is in greatest opposition to any synergy of religion with reason.

Far be it from me to think that the crazy-eyed, raving demonstrators had that it mind when going out to protest; it may, however, been on the minds of the Muslim theologians who made the Friday speech to them before they went out of the mosque.

hank_F_M said...


One of your best.

From the blog or the famous Ratzinger and Benedict XVI fan clubs.

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 practise idolatry.

Not as Father said this morning that the Moslems are proving the Pope wrong by burning things and attacking people. It’s that a Moslem view of Gods nature is incompatible with a Christian (especially Catholic) view on the nature of God. But his main point in the talk is against secular Western culture, which rejects the same approach to rationality. To defeat the Jihadists at the expense of a completely secularized west would be no victory.

Benedict XVI is either

- Going to get the Church sent to the catacombs sooner than would have been the case

- Prevent the Church from going to the Catacombs by shaking up Western Culture enough to recover it’s soul.


Catching up on my bloglines I clicked on Joy of Knitting and got a blog site about knitting of all things. I hope she just got tired of blogging.

ziontruth said...


"[...] because the value of science and of religion has been deflated back to their normal size as tools rather than saviors of humanity."

should be

"[...] because the value of science and of reason has been deflated back to their normal size as tools rather than saviors of humanity."

nicky said...

Nice post. I learned a lot. Though I must say that for me, unlearned as I am, I'm wondering how was it that the Pope's speech didn't mention one very important fact, which could have coupled his profitable discussion of the relationship between Athens and Jerusalem in the West, this profitable tension between faith and reason, with the fact that this tension has also existed in Islam. In fact, were it not for Islam, the whole Greek enterprise, the texts (and in the end the texts are what is most vital) and the long line of scholars directly linked back to the schools of Hellenism (the next most vital thing) would likely not have survived. During the West's so-called "dark ages" the center of Hellenic scholarship was Iraq. Hellenism survived thanks to moslem scholars and Islamic schools of thought in Iraq. Who was a better interpreter of Plato than Al Farabi?, a product of this fact. Who did exactly what the Pope is claiming is vital to do for the Jews better than Maimonides, who claimed Al Farabi as his guide. Who did what the Pope is claiming is so vital to do for the Church better than Aquinas, who to was influenced by the schools of thought that influnced Al Farabi and Maimonides. This is indeed a long war. Between and within. So to say, "Unfortunately for Islam, it simply conquered, subdued, and killed or converted those in its path. It never absorbed from the surrounding culture. Such absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, no?," is to forget a whole other side of Islam, a side that the fascists Islamist of today themselves do their darndest to keep us from recalling (don't get me wrong), but a side we must not forget if only not to do the bidding of the Islamic Fascist. To say what you said and I quoted above isn't wrong, but it isn't the whole story either. Allies are needed in this fight. Another reason Babylon has always been a key. Why it was right to go there, though wrong to go their half-heartedly. It was key when Cyrus took it and deposed the dictator over 2,500 years ago and let the Jews return to Jerusalem and it is key now. It is the place historically where exactly what the Pope says Islam needs a strong dose of, historically, did occur. To cede Iraq is to lose everything, not to win with the part of Islam who wants the same victory, is, not to win.

Baron Bodissey said...

avspatti --

Unfortunately, the page setup and print arrangements are controlled by the blogger structure. If I had designed the HTML for the page from scratch, it would be quite printable.

What I do when I want to print something is this: Select the text I want with a mouse, then Ctrl-C to copy; open a Word document, then Ctrl-V to paste the text in. I do some additional formatting to the text in Word to make it more readable, and then print it.

That's the best I can do. I hope it helps.

Knitting a Conundrum said...

Beautiful piece.

You said eloquently what I had been trying to put into words. I said it succinctly this way:

Benedict might as well have stood on the mountain and said, "Islam, your understanding of the nature of God is flawed. "

Benedict is saying, in effect, God IS reasonable, and Islam is wrong; violence in the name of God is something that God doesn't want, and Islam is wrong; and the hyperrationality of the West, with its denial of the metaphysical, the miraculous is also wrong, and in his gentle, scholarly way, he manages to draw a line in the sand.

He has made points like this before, but this time, it caught the attention of the world. I do not think he intended to sound a battle cry, but sometimes, it seems like God (or fate or whatever, counting on how you feel about such things) takes things into his own hands, and moves the heat up a notch.

We might not like the heat we find, either. But the Gospel reading for this Sunday in the Roman Catholic calender were instructive, if not prophetic:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me."

If this escalates much more, those of us who are Christian might want to do some serious meditating on what that means.

moif said...


Where is the attack? All I said is he doesn't have the answers. Belief is not proof and never will be. As for 'this Pope's philisophy', he is a christian is he not? No matter what his philosophy is, then it is based on that intellectual foundation, and thats all there is to know for an unbeliever like me. He has no answers. He can't tell me why I exist any more than a scientist can...or a Muslim for that matter.

This is not an ad hominum attack. It is simple common sense.

davis s.

Oh, and Moif - way to reduce yourself to the level of your opponents. You come here and spout the primary points of your belief system, as though doing so ever convinced anyone of anything. The equivalent would be if I answered an atheist's argument by just spouting Scripture at them. You are what you hate, my friend. In fact, you're worse, because at least the Scripture quotes would make sense. Good work, sluggo.

What opponents? What belief system? What hate? I don't hate the pope, I merely disagree with his point of view on the value of religion.

I wrote what I did because I was moved by the article (which I enjoyed reading) to voice my opinion... you know, that freedom of speech thing we Danes keep getting into trouble over...

Dymphna said...

The Arabs had teh Greek texts because they saved some -- the ones they didn't set fire to, anyway.

And long before Mohammed was a gleam in his father's eye, Augustine of Hippo was in Rome studying Plato and eventually bringing Greek thought back to No. Africa.

There were some Muslim scholars, but darn few. And there were some magnificent poets -- the Persian, Hafiz comes to mind -- but it doesn't make up for the bloody-mindedness of Islam in general and the ceaseless murder, carnage, and destruction of civilizations in their path.

The Iraqi Arabs "saved" some of the Socratic school's ideas, too. But they never developed them. In fact, that is the static quality of Islam at heart. Because it developed so quickly, was codified within the lifetime and within the mind of one man, it never had the chance to gestate, develop, and grow. That is the fatal flaw...besides the fact that the founder was a Bedouin, I mean.

Now there's one of my prejudices showing. In my youth -- and I do mean very early on -- I dated a Saudi boy. It was short-lived because I found his ideas so creepy, so foreign. The idea of hubris may have been developed by the Greeks, but it is lived by the Arabs.

Dymphna said...


I thought your ideas were telling. But they would have been stronger had you not revealed your atheism right off. People see that and they react. Like me and Arabs...

I consider atheism a belief system among others, not a separate idea; it's still within the subset of "I believe"...

BTW, in passing Benedict mentioned "J Monod" -- I was hoping to see him address Jacques M's ideas a bit further. His "Chance and Necessity" might be much to your liking. At the bottom of the speech, there was a note to the effect that footnotes, etc., will follow.

For the non, see here:

"Chance and Necessity"

I notice this version is a mass market paperback so it must be used in philosophy of science courses. I do remember having to wait a long time to get it in English. Such a drag, being ignorantly mono-lingual.

IMHO, physics (not Monod's field) leads the way for everything else. It is the science which produces our cosmology and, in turn, our theology. What is amazing is how sequestered it is; so many of us still live with a three-tiered view of the universe. Which is why people give up on religion.

For the counter-argument to Monod, I would recommend, as I always do,
this blog:

One Cosmos

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Just a symphony of reasoning and reference. I doubt if there were 1000 people in the world who knew of Manuel II Palaeologus a week ago. The emperor made a beautiful upper class insult followed by just an elegant logical and spiritual thrust at the the heart of Muslim ideology. Only if we will have a time in which G-d regresses to beyond reason, do those folks have a prayer. In a spirit of reciprocity over Lebanon War II however, the NY Times has counseled the Pope against such a 'disproportionate response.' The Catholic church is going to enjoy its time of Katushas.

Dymphna said...

a psychiatrist--

You mean the Swiss Guards with Kathushas???

Oy, boy, I can't wait!!


But then I'm a blood thirsty Crusader at heart. Now you know...shrinks have that effect on me.

(OT-- do you use Trauma Reduction Therapy for your vets? I like the ideas behind it)

Mihir said...

"Behead those who say Islam is violent". says this placard

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

"Islam can't change, because Muslims still believe that God is the source of their holy book, a belief Catholics once held about their Bible but have long since evolved past. I quoted a Catholic from 700 years ago to make this point, and now Muslims are upset. Please refer to Cardinal Sodano's statements in support of Hezbollah, er, his explanation for why the head of the Roman Catholic Church seems genuinely unaware of Christian theology. Thank you."

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

DYMPHNA: It's a metaphor. I don't know anyting about trauma reduction therapy. I would look to intrusive thought reduction as with Cortef per Aerni at al in Journal of Biological Psychiatry. PTSD might be seen as 'overlearning.' Katushas never have been used by Christian forces; so the thought that the Swiss Guards might use them is not intuitive. After the cross border raid by Hezbollah and Katusha firing, Cardinal Seldano, Vatican Secreatary of State, had the elegant thought which also came out of his moral pen that Israel firing back was 'against international law.' The Catholic press played it that way, would condemn firing against Hezbelollah antiarcraft batteries manned by people in civilian clothes, no doubt civilians when dead. The Church aided blood libel against the Israelis. So now when the Vatican is under attack, the NYTimes, reasonable with Israel, is happy to condemn the Vatican for 'disproportion' in its rhetoric. The Swiss Guards ARE going to have to do something about that Air Defense Command.

moif said...


I thought your ideas were telling. But they would have been stronger had you not revealed your atheism right off. People see that and they react. Like me and Arabs...

Feel free to react, but know that in doing so, then you are acting just as the Muslims do.

I enjoyed your article and found it very well written, but am some what disapointed with the comments it has generated. If the only difference between Islam and Christianity is how well read the clerics are, as opposed to how tolerate the members of the religion are then I'm afraid there is nothing much of a difference at all, for, as has been mentioned, Islam has also had periods when its scholars had the academic advantage, and where did that lead but no where?

I consider atheism a belief system among others, not a separate idea; it's still within the subset of "I believe"...

Then, I submit, your perception is flawed, for I have no 'belief'. My position with regards to the big questions of life is that I do not know. I acknowledge that there may be a greater meaning to life, but I am not so dihonest to myself that I can pretend that my perception is the right one, nor am I seduced by the idea that others do, simply because they have the belief they do. Religion and belief are ideology and ideology is a product o the human mind. There is no evidence to support any religion of the human race, and nothing to support the idea that any of them have understood anything at all about the meanings of life.

david s

Holy moly, Dymphna's a woman!? Haha, sorry, I just never looked, and never knew. I guess it's one of those rather pathetic elements of my generation to assume that someone who is intelligent is a man. In all honesty, I've met a sum total of one woman my age (that is, in her 20s) who had a brain and wasn't afraid to use it.

Is this an ad hominum attack as well? …or are you just speaking with your foot in your mouth?
In fact, neither, you are merely speaking about intelligent women in the same general way that I speak about religion. Generally, and with little care.

Moif --

Your statements were openly hostile toward both religion in general and Benedict's statements in particular (and you misunderstood him). You said "religion is ideology, nothing more" as though that were a point against religion. Isn't any worldview an ideology?
And it seems not only cynical but rather illogical to assume that because someone is a Christian and their views stem from that fact any deductions they make are flawed. Christianity, more than any other religion - at least Catholicism - is logical. If you were at all familiar with Aquinas you would not so lightly brush off Christianity as a system of philosophy/theology; Thomism is the one school of thought that does not require any absurd assumptions, a subject on which Chesterton wrote quite thoroughly in his biography of St. Thomas.

I suggest you actually pursue answers legitimately, actively, and without bias in Christianity before condemning the most popular religion in history to the 'nonsense' pile.
Is it an ideology to admit ignorance of the meaning of life?

So Christianity is logical? Its logical to assume there is a heaven you’ve never seen, a God you’ve never met and a reason you’ve never been told…? This is not logic, it is belief.

I’m sorry and maybe its painful for you to read this, in which case, like the Pope I apologise for hurting your feelings, but I don’t see much difference between Christianity and Islam. I am a child of a nation where religion is apparently dying out, where churches stand empty and where Muslims find it hard to live with the certainty’s they are used to. Religion means nothing to me. It is merely yet one more form of human vanity that seeks to impose an anthropomorphic view of reality, onto reality.

X said...

You could try reading some of the deductive reasoning behind the theology, my friend. Try reading a little Aquinas, or any of the great texts. Or even CS Lewis if you want something more modern. But then that might shake you out of your comfortable little place...

If you can't see the difference between Islam and Christianity then I'm sorry for you, but there is a qualitative difference. Christianity is based on reason. You can find that based on any of the texts of the church fathers, and the discussions of those texts in subsequent centuries. You can find it in the hebrew roots of the faith too. Solomon's Ecclesiastes, quite probably one of the earliest philopsophical discourses known to man (and preceeding the greeks by some centuries), contains plenty of rational discourse about nature and the nature of god, so the tradition os seeking knowledge through induction and reason is well established in the judeo-christian ethic. You'll find none of that in Islam.

Christianity, further, is a searching religion. It doesn't simply look within itself for confirmation of its tennets, but without as well. This searching is the reason why the christian church first adopted greek philosophical leanings and discourse, because it was seen as a means to better deduce the nature of god. This searching makes it more, shall we say, diplomatic - at its best at least, than most other religions. And one would hope less arrogant.

Your last paragraph actually sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Solomon felt the same way about his faith when he started the book (and he was obviously unbelieving as he wrote it) yet, by the end, he was on a path back to his faith.

Anyway, aside from all that, there's still a problem with this statement:

"It is merely yet one more form of human vanity that seeks to impose an anthropomorphic view of reality, onto reality."

Everyone does this. Everyone projects their own internal views on to reality. If you aren't a believer in god and the idea of a moral absolute then you must therefore be a believer in subjectivism. Subjectivism is essentially the idea that there is no objective truth, and that each man's "truth" is equally valid. It imposes a view on the world by proxy; In this subjective world, if you believe that the sky is pink and that little green elephants (to take an extreme example) are running around in between the blades of grass on the lawn, who am I to dispute that? I know it's an absurd argument on its face, but the essence of the subjective reality is that we cannot know reality as seen by anyone else, which becomes a philosophical nightmare simply because it can be taken to such extremes. After all, how can I see through your eyes?

Perhaps christianity isn't perfect but, lacking an objective measure, you see it as no better than Islam. However, it objectively is better, for the reasons I've outlined above, and attacking it now is not only a waste of our time but also, whether you like it or not, is an attack on your nationsl foundation. Secular humanism only exists because christianity preserved reason through the euphemistically named "Dark Ages" (really an age of tremendous technological progress, maligned by the rationalists of the Enlightenment because, obviously, it couldn't be as good as they were), and in fact preserved the whole idea of reason.

As much as you protest, you cannot not believe. You must believe in something simply because it is mankind's nature to do so. You prefess a belief in logic, in reason, yet reason and logic are ultimately products on the "irrational" human mind attempting to impose its view on the world. Human observation, the mere act of you looking at the world, subjects it to a distortion through your personal set of biases and beliefs. Ideas about beauty and ugliness are anthropomorphic projections. A beautiful flower is beautiful to us because we invest it with qualities that aren't physically there. A horse is seen as noble, and a cow ugly, but they're just beasts. Their qualities are entirely of our own manufacture.

Finally, you assume that logic and faith cannot coexist. I say they can. Logic is not the end of reason. It is merely the begining. Faith, according to Paul, is the belief of things unseen and the hope for things yet to pass. Faith is a fundamental part of the human psyche. Without faith, we bumble from day to day with no ambition, as ambition is grounded in the belief in things not yet seen. Without faith we aren't driven, because we have no belief in the future, no hope for what is to come. Nothing new would be produced without faith, and without belief in things greater than ourselves we cannot bring out new ideas.

Islam produces nothing new because it has a belief in a god that is less than human. A god that can't feel pain and torment, a god that can't feel love. A god that cannot relate. Islam produces nothing new because it claims that all that is, is all that will be. Islam has no faith within itself, whereas christianity has faith in everything. That is the fundamental difference between the two, and that is why it is a mistake to say they are the same.

Beach Girl said...

No, the Pope did not blunder but using his "lack of sensitivity" as the excuse, the Muslim street proved his point. Maybe if the West is smart enough, the weakness of Muslim tribalism can be used against it.

Perhaps, as Profitsbeard suggested in a later post comment, the Pope, by "saying he's sorry" will prove Profitsbeard's point about being overly sorry, overly apologetic as we bow down to the great islam. That 's one way to say "in your face".

eatyourbeans said...

Sometime back, on another blog, a European convert to Islam was gushing on about the advanced scientific knowledge set forth in the Koran. Black holes, for instance, said she. I howled at that one. You got that right, Sister! Islam knows black holes. It should. It is one.

Dymphna said...

Archonix said...

"...if you believe that the sky is pink and that little green elephants (to take an extreme example) are running around in between the blades of grass on the lawn, who am I to dispute that?..."

Me, neither, Archonix. Especially if I'm tripping with you.

I do believe there is a hole in the soul, a chasm in the human heart, that will be filled with something, whether it is some version of "God" (now there's an over-used and abused word), or physics, or the elegance of math.

We love truth, goodness and beauty and we are ineluctably drawn to them...after Thomas Aquinas finished his monumental "Summa" he pronounced it all "straw"...because in the end there is only silence.

I don't want you to be other than you are, moif. If atheism is your lot in life, so be it. I rejoice in your free will to choose it, and your courage to remain within that framework. But from the way you describe it, you are an agnostic and that is something quite different, and more humble. It says I DO NOT KNOW. Besides, the word "agnostic" has the advantage of not having "theism" in its definition.

David S--

Hmmm... brush up on your Catholic saints. Dymphna was quite something. Lived about the same time as Mohammed...besides, most names ending in "a" are female, no?

If you can't find intelligent women, you're hanging with the wrong crowd. Or perhaps you mean "intellectuals" and not those possessing intelligence. We all have differing vocations, do we not? At any rate, I suggest you get out more; women don't tend to dominate the scienes (Larry Summers was right) but some are quite brilliant in the field anyway. Most of my childhood girl companions were good at math and physics, much to my despair. I can barely divide my way out of a paper an obedient little Catholic girl, I was damn good at multiplying when the time came...turns out my urge to have lots of babies was the right one. NOW they tell me...

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Christianity and Reason?

WELL, if Jihad is one of the defining qualities of islam, then sadly Christianity is more marked by pacifism than reason .... the crusades and inquistion are the exception and not the rule, if anything the west has always been driven by agressive politics in opposition to Christian tenets. Now we have peacenik weak politics (including Bush and the neocons - invading and occupying Iraq and Afganistan in order to de facto pander to their sensibilities and install sharia regimes is beyond bizarre), in addition to a traditional religion that all too often likes to emphasize turning the other cheek.

So I anyway had high hopes for Benedict. For instance, Ratzingers background as a "nazi" flak-helper in his formative years was cited as a negative early on, and yet it should be otherwise. Can being with gunners, defying the juggernaut of the RAF and US 8th air force which is is quite literally pounding his homeland into rubble not give the man capacity for defiance?

Thats exactly why some combative and provocative reason from the Pope was so exciting.

He threw down the gauntlet, and the Islamoids show their bad attitude. Like the cartoons, it will probably get worse as the illiterate masses are cajoled into a frenzy over time. And now a half-backdown from reason in the face of threats and anger .... not good, not good at all. The vaticans squirming and weaseling half apologies are worrying. If Benedict is serious we must see another Islamist scorching zinger from his side soon.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

If Benedict is serious we must see another Islamist scorching zinger from his side soon.

Puh-lease. Mr. Ratzinger has all but made out the jizyah payment check.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

No, Benedict didn’t “blunder.” He said what he meant and he meant what he said.

"At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought."

Said what he meant, and meant what he said?

Only if the contrast between Islam and Catholicism is that Muslims still believe their holy book comes from God and that the Catholics have evolved beyond such "medieval" notions about their holy book.

Someone really ought to sit down with Mr. Ratzinger and introduce him to Christian theology.