Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ratzinger's Lecture

The Pope's lecture to Regensburg University was mostly a rather tedious discourse on the relationhip between "reason" and "faith" (I didn't know there was any). There is no doubt that in one part of the speech he does suggest that Christianity is superior to Islam in two respects: first, he says that Christianity (or Roman Catholicism) holds that "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature" whereas Islam holds that God is "absolutely transcendent" and - I guess - doesn't have to be reasonable if he doesn't want to; secondly, he says Christianity does not believe in "violent conversion". It is in this context that he quotes Manuel II Paleologus who (during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1404) wrote a dialogue based on conversations with an "educated Persian". Manuel II is quoted as 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". I have no idea whether this is a reasonable interpretaion of Islam or not. I suspect both Christianity and Islam are capable of being interpreted in an intolerant hellfire-and-damnation fashion, or in a more liberal and tolerant fashion. Certainly Christianity has its own history of intolerance, of crusades, of the enthusiastic burning of heretics and atheists, and so on. Odd that the Pope didn't mention any of that. Yet the appropriate response is for moderate Muslim scholars who dispute the Pope's interpretation to polemicise against him and to point out how he has got Muslim teaching wrong (if he has). Instead a bunch of nutters have taken to the streets howling for an apology (now conceded) and in the West Bank two churches have been fire-bombed by a group calling itself the "lions of Monotheism". This simply reinforces the worse kind of sterotypes of Muslims; and if I were a moderate Muslim I would be more distresssed by this reaction than by the Pope's remarks. The paradox is that the fire-bombers probably do hold the views Razinger ascribes to them: they are unlikely to be the most enlightened of Muslims. On the other hand, I suspect Ratzinger meant what he said and intended to say it. He is well-known to be a reactionary and I suspect he is a Catholic bigot. Already the right-wing blogs are leaping to his defence. As between Ratzinger on the one hand, and the nutters on the streets on the other (who I do not believe speak for Muslims as a whole), Politaholic says: a plague on both your houses.


Blogger dreadnought said...

A plague on both of them indeed, and the sooner the better. It is unbelievable the strife that is caused by a load on fictitious nonsense. There is more truth in The Beano than in these rediculous religions!

8:39 am  
Blogger dreadnought said...

A plague on both of them indeed, and the sooner the better. It is unbelievable the strife caused by a load of fictitious nonsense. There is more truth in The Beano than in these religions!

8:41 am  
Blogger Kate said...

I agree! It seems incredible that any moderately minded person of any faith or none could leap to the defence of either the Pope, or the nutters.

7:28 pm  
Blogger skipper said...

Karen Armstrong, who has written a well regarded book on Islam says today in Grauniad that it's all our fault for starting off by killing so many of them in the Crusades and that it's been tit for tat ever since.

8:25 pm  
Blogger politaholic said...

Thanks for that Dreadnought and Kate. Skipper, I haven't read the Karen Armstrong book, but she had an interesting article in Monday's Guardian. She argues that "...until the 20th century Islam was a far more tolerant and peaceful faith than Christianity. The Qur'an strictly forbids any coercion in religion...the extremism and intolerance that have surfaced in the Muslim world in our day are a response to intractable political problems - oil, Palestine...the wests's percieved "double standards"...", etc. Politaholic is an atheist but I hope not a bigoted one. I suspect all religions have their nutters and their more decent and humane adherants. The latter's religious views are no less ridiculous to me; but I'd rather have them as neighbours.

8:22 am  
Anonymous Ian Logan said...

I have news for politaholic - you are an atheist bigot! If you weren't, you would know that atheists were responsible for more murderous genocide in one century than all religions in history put together. By the way, those of us who know something about the history of the relationship between Christianity and Islam are aware that the first Crusade took place in 1098, 450 years after the Islamic destruction of the Christian civilisation of North Africa, and nearly 400 years before the expulsion of the Islamic invaders from Spain.

3:32 pm  

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