Jay Reding.com

The Pope And Islam

Pope Benedict XVI has created a firestorm of controversy over remarks he made at the University of Regensberg. The Pope quoted the obscure Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said of Islam “Show me just what Muhammed 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.”

Benedict did not condone that statement, but nor is it entirely without merit. His speech is complex and challenging, but it is also a critical statement of why the doctrine of jihad is such an affront to human dignity. The Pope stated:

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

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

Yet we already know that is going on in the Arab and Muslim world.

The Pope isn’t endorsing the words of that Byzantine Emperor, but making a larger point about the existence of universal truths. However, what has happened is that the radical fringe of Islam (or perhaps the mainstream of Islam) simply cannot accept rational or reasonable criticism. The flap over the Muhammad cartoons, the way in which the crudest of propaganda is swallowed whole, and now this all show that there are significant swathes — perhaps even a majority — of the Muslim world that is unable to consider their faith in a rational way.

As one very astute analyst finds, the Pope was speaking of how reason and revelation are two things which should be closely associated together — that his criticism of the Reformation is that reason and revelation were split, and that in Islam, reason is almost entirely subjugated to the revelations of the Qu’ran and the dictates of the Prophets. Indeed, the actions of the Muslim world to that line of analysis proves the Pope’s point quite well.

The Guardian also has an excellent defense of Pope Benedict:

Benedict’s offence, of course, was recklessly to quote this 600 year-old expression of the point of view of a medieval Middle Eastern potentate. He didn’t endorse it, didn’t say that it was his own view, attributed it in context. And is now told that he has “aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world”. Most of which, probably, had never heard of Manuel II Paleologue before this morning. Perhaps the pope should be careful of bringing such subversive ancient texts to light.

On the other hand, if you cannot, as part of a lengthy and profound academic lecture, cite a 600 year-old text for fear of stirring the aggravation of noisy politicians half way around the world, what CAN you do? We might as well all retreat into obscurantism. And keep our mouths shut, for otherwise, who knows who we might offend. And if, as a result of the outrage, some Catholics get killed or their churches burned down by offended scholars and textual exegesists it might be thought that Manuel’s original point had rather been made.

Indeed, given that there are now worries about the safety of the Pope due to his speech, I’d argue that Manuel’s original point has already been largely proven. If the Muslim world wishes to refute his statement, further violence is most assuredly not the way to do it.

28 responses to “The Pope And Islam”

  1. The key here is not the actual content, nor is it the context; it is the fact that factions in the world are so easy to anger, and so intolerant, that freedom of expression is impaired de facto. The pope may say it, but will you?

  2. Erica says:

    Let’s pretend that the God of Abraham actually exists. This God is definitely pleased by blood, as we can see in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament he orders all sorts of atrocities. In the New Testament he is STILL being appeased by blood, even if it is the blood of only one person/deity-in-a-human-costume. In reality God is pleased by whatever anybody says he is pleased by, since God is make-believe.

    I don’t know any Muslims, but I’m going to guess that they are exactly as impervious to reason (on matters of faith) as Christians or New Age Wiccans or whatever. And that’s ok. Faith, by it’s very nature, is supposed to be irrational. If there was some kind of evidence to suggest that one ought to believe in one deity or another, faith would not be required. There are large numbers of religious people who have faith yet also live rational, normal lives. Faith/religion only becomes a problem when people use it as an excuse to harm others or to interfere with policy and scientific progress. And fundamentalist Christians are exactly as guilty of this as fundamentalist Muslims.

  3. Eracus says:

    Last time I checked, Erica, the Christians weren’t beheading anybody on television, stoning old women to death, or hanging young girls from construction cranes. Nevermind flying airplanes into buildings. Please grow up, dear. Soon.

  4. Erica says:

    I predicted this response, because it is the usual one. But you are forgetting the Christian terrorists in Ireland and the Christian terrorists who bomb abortion clinics and the Christian terrorists who murder gay people. Did you forget that Timothy McVeigh was not a Muslim?

    But I suppose because the Christian terrorists aren’t actually beheading the infidel on television, they are fantastic human beings and I should give them a free pass. It is true that grown-ups are able to distinguish the good terrorists from the bad ones.

    Do I see radical Islam as a problem? Certainly. I would probably even grant you that it’s currently more of a problem than radical Christianity. But in the long run they are both harmful to freedom and democracy.

  5. M. Murcek says:

    More tiresome Christian bashing. By their fruits shall ye know them…

  6. Eracus says:

    Erica, darling, you’ve been too long watching The View. Rosie McDonnell is not the Goddess of Truth and Knowledge.

  7. Erica says:

    I know you like to think your shit don’t stink, but lean a little bit closer and see what roses really smell like…Outkast is definitely the God of Truth and Knowledge.

    Christian shit stinks just like everybody else’s shit, my friend.

    Eracus, sweetie, would you like to take Bush’s cock out of your mouth so you can contribute something meaningful to this discussion?

  8. Jay Reding says:

    Let’s do a little experiment, shall we?

    I’ll wear a Flying Spaghetti Monster T-Shirt in down the heart of the Bible belt — let’s say Waco, Texas.

    You go with your head uncovered in Riyadh with a T-Shirt with a cartoon of Mohammad on it.

    The one of us which lives at the end is the winner.

    I find it distressing that so many “feminists” seem more concerned about the supposed oppression of Christianity when a 17-year-old girl named Nazanin was sentenced to death by an Iranian court. Her crime? Being raped. And across the Muslim world, there are thousands of cases just like that.

    Women burned to death in a school in Riyadh because they didn’t have their veils on and the religious police barred the doors so they wouldn’t “shame” themselves.

    Bride-burning in Pakistan.

    The rape of tens of thousands of young girls by Arab janjaweed militias in the Darfur region of Sudan.

    The forced submission of tens of thousands of Muslim women under shar’ia in Europe. (Theo Van Gogh was murdered for this film, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali fears for her life because of it.)

    But hey, as long as rich white women can flush fetuses with impunity, who gives a fuck about the millions of women suffering under the brutal yoke of Islam? Bashing Christianity is so much easier because Christians tend not to behead you for it or stone you to death for it.

    The last thing this world needs is another bunch of spoiled white hypocrites bitching about how oppressive Christianity is while thousands of women die brutal deaths. I guess their screams just aren’t loud enough to pierce the bubble of narcissism that surrounds the feminist movement these days.

  9. Eracus says:

    As meaningful, perhaps, as your contribution above exposing the limits of your intelligence and the failure of your education? And you expect to be taken seriously? You’re stuck on stupid, honey. Peace be upon you.

  10. Erica says:

    Let’s see what I’ve learned:

    A) I’m stupid and I’m a crappy entomologist – my education has failed me, you see – because I don’t agree with Eracus.

    B) Everybody who suggests that maybe those most eager to demonize Muslims are not without sin and thus should not be casting stones, is a Christian-bashing lipstick feminist.

    If you had bothered to read what I wrote you might have noticed a few things:

    1) I’m not expressing a radical liberal point of view. Giving in to any form of fundamentalism means giving up basic human rights – whether that fundamentalism is Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc.

    2) This conversation is not about feminism, and I was not the one who brought it up. Nevertheless, it is extremely strange to suggest that American women are unaware of or do not care about women in other situations. Should we stop trying to fight poverty in America because people in Africa are so much poorer?

    So, nobody has really addressed my arguments. “Feminists hate babies!” and “You’re stupid!” and “Why do you hate Christianity?!” are not responses. Why should we not consider ALL fundamentalists a threat to democracy? Why should we not examine ourselves and purge our own government of religious extremism before we try and help others? Why aren’t we striving to set a better example of freedom and democracy for the world? Why is it that the only extremists we’re allowed to say bad things about are the Muslims?

  11. Jay Reding says:

    Why should we not consider ALL fundamentalists a threat to democracy?

    Because Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism aren’t synonymous. For one, Islam is an expressly political region. According to the Islamists, the only acceptable form of government for a Muslim to live in is a government ruled under strict shari’a law. Democracy and radical Islam are manifestly incompatible. As Sayyid Qutb wrote:

    For human life, there is only one true system, and that is Islam; all other systems are Jahiliyyah. (paganism)

    There is only one law which ought to be followed, and that is the Shari’ah from God; anything else is mere emotionalism and impulsiveness.

    The New Testament, by contrast, is full of rhetoric about why Christianity doesn’t care about matters of state. The Sermon on the Mount contains the words “my kingdom is not of this world.” In fact, Augustine had to defend Christianity against the charge that it doesn’t care about the condition of this world, only the next.

    The long and short of it is that Christian fundamentalism says nothing of democracy, and does not demand that everyone be Christian. It allows one to “witness” to others, but Ann Coulter aside, the idea of conquering by the sword isn’t justified in Christianity — quite the opposite in fact. Islamic fundamentalism is innately political and divides the world into Dar-al-Islam (the House of Submission) and Dar-al-Harb (the House of War).

    Again, if Christian fundamentalism is equal to Muslim fundamentalism, then try going to Waco and saying you’re not a Christian and then try passing out Bibles in Riyadh. I guarantee you that should you keep your head on your shoulders the manifest difference between Islamic and Christian fundamentalism would become quite clear.

    Why should we not examine ourselves and purge our own government of religious extremism before we try and help others?

    Because the “religious extremism” in our government is largely the product of people’s imagination. The “religious extremism” that is imagined by the left is more a symptom of their own anti-religious bigotry than anything else.

    To whine about “religious extremism” here while millions of women are being systematically oppressed by brutal and tyrannical governments is like seeing two people on the road, one of whom is on fire and one of whom has stubbed their toe and demanding that the person with the stubbed toe be rushed to the hospital while the other dies in agony.

    It’s called having perspective, and those who spend all their time and energy fighting their imaginary demons while millions suffer are at the very least fools.

  12. Eracus says:

    “Why aren’t we striving to set a better example of freedom and democracy for the world?”

    You mean like when you shit-bombed this guy’s blog and called me a cocksucker, my sweet? Is that your idea of how we should be setting a better example of freedom and democracy for the world? Raging profanity and lewd personal attacks?

    And how, just exactly, is your fundamentalist human rights religious extremism any different from the fundamentalist extremism of any other religion? Haven’t you just written that we ought to “purge” ourselves of all the unbelievers of your particular version of secular humanist faith before we venture forth to help anyone else? And how shall we purge them, my dear? Public stonings, perhaps? Burn them at the stake? Hang them at half-time? The sword?

    And this shall advance our cause of freedom and democracy exactly how?

  13. Justin says:

    We need to face up to the reality that every state that was dominated by the Catholic clerics was backwards, a failure, and inherently intolerant. Catholicism is right up there with Islam in terms of being one of the leading historical forces in destroying nations. This is not to say that Islamic led clerical states are off the hook, they have in many cases been even more pathetic that Catholic led clerical states. Whether or not the Pope supported those comments is less the issue to me than the whitewash of history. The first time Constantinople was sacked it was not be Muslims, but by Roman Catholic hordes. The Byzantine Empire itself was a fairly intolerant state that was struggling to cope with the economic, social, and technological modernity of its days. In many cases it was less of an economic hardship for some subjects to join the Ottoman Empire than to serve under the feudal leaders in Eastern Europe. Both Christianity and Islam were largly spread by the sword (look at how Christianity came to Northern Europe,and parts of Latin America). The Pope can claim a supremacy when it comes to current nature of Christian states as opposed to Muslim ones. But historically there is no clear claim that matches this modern day reality, the past is a whole lot murkier for both major faiths.

  14. Justin says:

    “And how shall we purge them, my dear? ”

    I don’t know what country you live in, Eracus, but here in America we purge the government through a phenomenon called “elections.” Although I imagine it’s fairly easy for conservatives to forget to pretend like American elections are still real.

  15. Justin says:

    “The New Testament, by contrast, is full of rhetoric about why Christianity doesn’t care about matters of state. The Sermon on the Mount contains the words “my kingdom is not of this world.” In fact, Augustine had to defend Christianity against the charge that it doesn’t care about the condition of this world, only the next.”

    Boy, it’s a good thing that Christianity is defined by only those two sources, right? Thank goodness that there’s been no other interpretations of the Christian experience and the Christian relationship with government since Augustine. Who knows what kind of trouble we’d be in!

    To suggest that Christianity “doesn’t care about matters of state” is so counter-factual in the face of Operation Rescue, Moral Majority, Focus on the Family, and other such groups that Jay should be more than embarassed to have written the above. What Christianity was like in the time of Augustine bears very little relationship to the world of today’s politically active Christian conservative, determined to transmute America into a “godly” nation. Whether or not they should be allowed to do so is a different conversation. But to assert that they’re not even interested in trying? Jay, you live in a fantasy world.

    “Again, if Christian fundamentalism is equal to Muslim fundamentalism, then try going to Waco and saying you’re not a Christian”

    You mean, much like the Smallowski family of Texas County, Oklahoma did?

    The result? Years of persecution by the city government, county sheriffs, and school board. Simply for being of no religion at all.

    Sure. Christian fundamentalists don’t chop off heads on videotape. The etymology of their crimes are different, because in this country, they have access to the machinery of the state to oppress. If you think that’s a redeeming distinction, then you’ve just removed yourself from serious debate on this issue.

  16. Justin says:

    The above two comments are not mine, has someone taken my name or is this a mishap of jayreding.com?

  17. Justin says:

    No, my name is Justin also, and I was posting with it before you were. I didn’t see any reason to change my name simply because you showed up.

  18. Jay Reding says:

    The above two comments are not mine, has someone taken my name or is this a mishap of jayreding.com?

    It’s another Justin. Since I don’t display emails on the site (nor do I intend to do so), you’ll have to fight it out over who gets to use the name. :)

    Boy, it’s a good thing that Christianity is defined by only those two sources, right? Thank goodness that there’s been no other interpretations of the Christian experience and the Christian relationship with government since Augustine. Who knows what kind of trouble we’d be in!

    Of course there’s more to that, but the New Testament itself doesn’t talk about conquering by the sword in the way that the Qu’ran does. Someone who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible (ie a Christian fundamentalist) isn’t going to behead someone for being an atheist as that’s manifestly un-Christian. Annoy them to no end, yes, behead them, no.

    Islam, on the other hand, is full of exhortations to suppress or kill unbelievers. Jesus was undoubtedly a pacifist. Muhammad was undoubtedly a conqueror. That plays into the relative theologies of Christianity and Islam.

    To suggest that Christianity “doesn’t care about matters of state” is so counter-factual in the face of Operation Rescue, Moral Majority, Focus on the Family, and other such groups that Jay should be more than embarassed to have written the above. What Christianity was like in the time of Augustine bears very little relationship to the world of today’s politically active Christian conservative, determined to transmute America into a “godly” nation. Whether or not they should be allowed to do so is a different conversation. But to assert that they’re not even interested in trying? Jay, you live in a fantasy world.

    The difference is that those organizations don’t believe it’s remotely appropriate to kill people to achieve their aims. None of those groups use violence to achieve their ends. For that matter, none of them are advocating theocracy in any real sense (Andrew Sullivan-style hysteria aside). They simply believe that politicians should follow a standard of morality that’s based on a sense of Judeo-Christian values. There’s nothing that say, a Buddhist, should find particularly horrifying about that. They don’t demand that everyone be forcibly converted to Christianity or be shot if they don’t attend Church every Sunday.

    I’m not a very big fan of politicized Christianity, in fact, I think people who make too much of their faith invariably betray its spirit, however, comparing even someone as irritating as Pat Robertson to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as ridiculous as saying that Hillary Clinton is just like Joseph Stalin because they both agree that an active government is a good thing.

    You mean, much like the Smallowski family of Texas County, Oklahoma did?

    Being a good lawyer, I pulled this case up on Westlaw.

    Charles Smallkowski has made a bunch of assertions. None of which he can prove. Smallkowski was accused of assault and battery for an attack he claimed was in self-defense.

    Sure. Christian fundamentalists don’t chop off heads on videotape. The etymology of their crimes are different, because in this country, they have access to the machinery of the state to oppress. If you think that’s a redeeming distinction, then you’ve just removed yourself from serious debate on this issue.

    And the Shi’ites of Iran or the Committee on Vice and Virtue don’t in Saudi Arabia?

    What Smallkowski may or may not have gone through (and I think that most of his claims are pure BS, and none of them are substantiated by any substantive evidence) doesn’t even remotely compare to what happens to religious minorities in the Arab world.

    Again, if you’re so sure that you’re right, you’re always welcome to travel to Tehran and start espousing atheism in the middle of the busiest souk you can find. You can even save yourself money by pre-paying freight on your return trip, since you won’t need a seat for the return flight…

  19. Justin Paul says:

    Justin–

    You are free to use the name, but I have posted on this site for several years, so please don’t claim that you were here before me.

  20. Justin says:

    “Of course there’s more to that, but the New Testament itself doesn’t talk about conquering by the sword in the way that the Qu’ran does. Someone who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible (ie a Christian fundamentalist) isn’t going to behead someone for being an atheist as that’s manifestly un-Christian.”

    Un-christian to you, perhaps. In what sense are you qualified to be interpreting the Bible for everybody? The problem for you is that the fundamentalists Christians unanimously reject your interpretation of the Christian relationship to politics. I know this to be true, because I’ve been to their churches for years. I’ve heard them say it!

    “Islam, on the other hand, is full of exhortations to suppress or kill unbelievers. ”

    In fact, it’s well-known that the Koran prohibits conversion by violence, and advocates war against unbelievers only in self-defense.

    “Jesus was undoubtedly a pacifist.”

    So you’ve read neither the Koran nor the Bible? Matthew 10:34:

    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.

    Now, most people don’t interpret that to mean that Jesus came as a military leader, but certainly your view that Jesus was a pacifist who came to bring brotherhood and unity to the Earth isn’t supported by the Bible. Jesus’s clear statement, echoed in Luke and the non-canonical book of Thomas, makes it absolutely clear that Jesus fully expected his revolutionary gospel to sew dissent, cause chaos, and tear families apart.

    If you think Jesus came as a pacifist, then I direct your attention to Luke 19:45, where Jesus volently clears the temple market of moneychangers.

    They simply believe that politicians should follow a standard of morality that’s based on a sense of Judeo-Christian values. There’s nothing that say, a Buddhist, should find particularly horrifying about that.

    Enforcing a moral code because of its affiliation with a religion, over any compelling secular reason, is theocracy. I mean it wouldn’t matter to you whether or not you were forced to believe in Allah if all they did was mandate bhurkas, ban alcohol, and establish a mandatory attendance at prayer, right? That would still be theocracy. Why different rules for Christians?

    “Charles Smallkowski has made a bunch of assertions. None of which he can prove.”

    Well, you’re mistaken. Apparently you didn’t do your homework? Smallowsky’s version of events was proved in court. And nobody disputes the other elements of his story; the coach confirmed that he dismissed Smallowski’s daughter from the team – at a public high school – because she wouldn’t take part in group prayer.

    But, hey. That’s not theocracy, right?

    And the Shi’ites of Iran or the Committee on Vice and Virtue don’t in Saudi Arabia?

    So you agree with me, then, that there is no distinction, Christians do use the power of the state to coerce Christian behavior, if not Christian belief?

    So what exactly is still in dispute?

    What Smallkowski may or may not have gone through (and I think that most of his claims are pure BS, and none of them are substantiated by any substantive evidence) doesn’t even remotely compare to what happens to religious minorities in the Arab world.

    Oh, right. All atheists are liars, right? And no Christian ever lies?

    Obviously things are worse in the Arab world. But the difference in violence levels are the political and social factors, not the religion. Anybody who lived through the violence in Belfast knows that Christians are more than capable of their own random, brutal terrorism. I lived in London when they used to close down the Tube for fear of terrorist bombs – in 1989. Unless you’re trying to tell me that Ireland has been populated only by Muslims?

    You are free to use the name, but I have posted on this site for several years, so please don’t claim that you were here before me.

    I’ve been here since “jayreding.com” was “gac.edu/~jreding”.

  21. Justin Paul says:

    That might be true, but you have not consistently posted under the name “Justin.” I know this for a fact. In fact some might claim you abandoned your claim to the name Justin when you began using other names to post under. Some might argue I have adversely possessed your name for the purposes of this board (snarkiness intended). But seeing that I usually post first and last name, it won’t be an issue.

  22. Justin Paul says:

    I do agree with Justin above though. The issue here is not the bible v quran, but more looking at history. Regardless of what Christ taught, Christian kingdoms spread their faith through violence. The Russian Orthodox Church spread its tentacles and suppressed Muslim Turks and Caucasians in the name of Christian empire. Indigneous people of South America were subjected to all kinds of cruel and inhumane treatment from the church. The faith was spread to Africa through violence and imperialism and only by converting and obtaining european names could Africans reach equal status. The Pagans were our dhimmis, Christians subjected them to 2nd class subhuman status unless they converted. Is this the true meaning of Christianity? I think not, but it has been largly how it has applied. We can also look to wars between Protestants and Catholics and between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox states to see that intolerance ran within the faith too. The Pope should invoke the present, where western europe and north america are light years ahead of most muslim countries. But to fit this into a nice historical narrative in which Islam is inherently vicious and Christianity inherently peaceful through the ages, is false. The Pope might as well start being a holocaust denier too if he is going to go down that path of lies and historical deceit.

  23. Jay Reding says:

    Un-christian to you, perhaps. In what sense are you qualified to be interpreting the Bible for everybody? The problem for you is that the fundamentalists Christians unanimously reject your interpretation of the Christian relationship to politics. I know this to be true, because I’ve been to their churches for years. I’ve heard them say it!

    In regards to beheading, there’s no reasonable interpretation of Christian scriptures that justify that.

    In fact, it’s well-known that the Koran prohibits conversion by violence, and advocates war against unbelievers only in self-defense.

    Except that isn’t true. The Qu’ran makes plenty of allusions to violence, and the history of Muhammad is one of violence. For instance, Sura 9:123 states “O you who believe, fight those of the unbelievers near you and let them see how harsh you can be. Know that Allah is with the righteous.” Sura 9:73 furthers the Islamic concept of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr/Dar al-Harb. There is no doubt that Mohammad was a military leader who brought Islam to the Arabian peninsula by the sword.

    So you’ve read neither the Koran nor the Bible? Matthew 10:34:

    The problem with that passage is that it is not an exhortation to violence at all. (And in fact later on in Matthew Jesus explicitly tells the Apostles not to use violence.) Jesus was merely pointing out that his teachings would be greatly controversial, and had the potential to split families apart. Jesus spoke of a sword, not the sword. The “sword” referenced in Matthew 10:34 is a metaphor for division.

    Under Islam, the common interpretation of jihad is expressly about violence.

    Now, most people don’t interpret that to mean that Jesus came as a military leader, but certainly your view that Jesus was a pacifist who came to bring brotherhood and unity to the Earth isn’t supported by the Bible. Jesus’s clear statement, echoed in Luke and the non-canonical book of Thomas, makes it absolutely clear that Jesus fully expected his revolutionary gospel to sew dissent, cause chaos, and tear families apart.

    That is more or less true – however, Jesus specifically disavowed any use of force in his name. Even Just War Theory is a stretch, and I’m a proponent of it. There’s a manifest difference between someone whose ideas are revolutionary and someone who espouses violent revolution.

    For example, Ghandi certainly expected his notion of satayagraha to “sew dissent, cause chaos, and tear families apart” — but no one argues that Ghandi wasn’t a pacifist. There’s nothing that prevents a pacifist from espousing difficult ideas, what makes a pacifist is an unwillingness to spread them with violence. You’re right in noting that Jesus did certainly expect his ideas to be “hard”, but he never avowed the concept of spreading Christianity by the sword in the way that Mohammad did in Sura 9.

    If you think Jesus came as a pacifist, then I direct your attention to Luke 19:45, where Jesus volently clears the temple market of moneychangers.

    Except the Bible doesn’t say he did so violently. The term used is translated as “cast out”, which generally doesn’t imply physical violence as much as forceful rebuke. (ie the “casting out” of demons) There’s no Biblical scholarship that indicates that Jesus harmed any of the money-changers themselves.

    Enforcing a moral code because of its affiliation with a religion, over any compelling secular reason, is theocracy. I mean it wouldn’t matter to you whether or not you were forced to believe in Allah if all they did was mandate bhurkas, ban alcohol, and establish a mandatory attendance at prayer, right? That would still be theocracy. Why different rules for Christians? (Emphasis mine.)

    That’s the issue – for most of what’s called “theocracy” there is a compelling secular reason for state intervention — such as in the case of abortion. I don’t support the mandatory teaching of creationism because there is no compelling secular reason, but for things like gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research there are universal ethical principles at stake that the state must grapple with.

    Well, you’re mistaken. Apparently you didn’t do your homework? Smallowsky’s version of events was proved in court. And nobody disputes the other elements of his story; the coach confirmed that he dismissed Smallowski’s daughter from the team – at a public high school – because she wouldn’t take part in group prayer.

    No, Smallkowski was acquitted of assault and battery. The syllabus of the case had no finding of facts as to any of Smallkowski’s other claims, and Smallkowski himself is hardly the most credible or disinterested party. (He’s a longtime atheist activist.)

    Furthermore, if your argument is that Christian “theocrats” have taken over the nation, the fact that Smallkowski was acquitted of the charges would seem to indicate that the “theocrats” control is hardly all-reaching.

    So you agree with me, then, that there is no distinction, Christians do use the power of the state to coerce Christian behavior, if not Christian belief?

    No, I completely disagree. If anything the trend in American jurisprudence has been to excessively limit religious expression in the public sphere.

    Furthermore, if the standard is that anything remotely Christian is beyond the pale, then our entire legal system has to go. Our legal system predisposes the innate rights of all human beings, being endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. If any and all religious expression is intolerable, the very foundations of our democracy would have to be ripped out.

    Oh, right. All atheists are liars, right? And no Christian ever lies?

    Wow, that’s the reddest red herring I’ve ever seen…

    Obviously things are worse in the Arab world.

    And obviously the Atlantic Ocean is a little wet.

    But the difference in violence levels are the political and social factors, not the religion.

    Except that relies on a fundamental misinterpretation of the very meaning of Islam. Islam is expressly more than just a religion. An Islamic society must order itself under strict Islamic principles. You can’t reasonably separate the the two without betraying the spirit of Islam itself. Furthermore, it’s one hell of a coincidence that those societies which are some of the most backwards on the planet all happen to be almost purely Islamic.

    Anybody who lived through the violence in Belfast knows that Christians are more than capable of their own random, brutal terrorism. I lived in London when they used to close down the Tube for fear of terrorist bombs – in 1989. Unless you’re trying to tell me that Ireland has been populated only by Muslims?

    Again, it’s a question of degree. The IRA is fighting for a nationalist/political cause more so than a religious cause. (And yes, the same could be said of some Islamic groups as well.) Nor has the IRA murdered countless thousands of people in mass casualty attacks. The IRA doesn’t employ suicide bombers. The IRA isn’t plotting to nuke London.

    There’s a massive difference between Islam and Christianity when it comes to the use of force — Mohammad was a military leader, Jesus was not. Jesus specifically forbid the use of force in His name (not that many listened), while Mohammad explicitly made jihad a requirement of the Muslim faith.

    Again, the best you can do is find someone who was harassed for being an atheist — in most Muslim countries, apostasy leads to a sentence of death. Trying to draw a moral equivalence between the two belittles the thousands of people who are killed in the Middle East for daring to oppose the status quo.

  24. Justin says:

    “Except that isn’t true. ”

    C’mon, Jay. I’m looking right at it! Quran, 2:256:

    “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error.”

    “Except the Bible doesn’t say he did so violently.”

    He braided a lash from a rope and starting whipping people. Even if he was only whipping at them, or something, that’s definately a violent act. The platform of your righteous indignation grows smaller and smaller.

    “I don’t support the mandatory teaching of creationism because there is no compelling secular reason, but for things like gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research there are universal ethical principles at stake that the state must grapple with.”

    Sure. And I think people should grapple with them. I’m not arrogant enough to presume I know what’s right for everybody on those issues, so I’m willing to look to compromises that we can all live with. I don’t know what a “universal ethical principle” is, particularly since nobody’s ever been able to agree on exactly what such principles are universal, but I’m willing to seek a practical agreement on the resolution to those contentious issues.

    But if the other side takes the position that they know God’s own position, and that’s what we should all do – what we’re all going to do – how is that not theocracy?

    “Smallkowski himself is hardly the most credible or disinterested party. (He’s a longtime atheist activist.)”

    You’re a long-time Christian. Should we simply disregard what you say?

    “Furthermore, if your argument is that Christian “theocrats” have taken over the nation, the fact that Smallkowski was acquitted of the charges would seem to indicate that the “theocrats” control is hardly all-reaching.”

    Good thing that isn’t now, nor has ever been my argument. Your arms must be tired from swinging at that strawman, though.

    “Furthermore, if the standard is that anything remotely Christian is beyond the pale, then our entire legal system has to go.”

    More strawmen.

    “An Islamic society must order itself under strict Islamic principles.”

    Under one interpretation. Many Muslims, clerics even, repudiate this reasoning. I’m sure you’ll try to tell me that it’s in the Koran and so they have to do it, but once again, it’s not clear to me what qualification you possess that allows you to make such grand pronouncements about what a whole religion is supposed to do.

    “Nor has the IRA murdered countless thousands of people in mass casualty attacks. The IRA doesn’t employ suicide bombers.”

    What, are you kidding me? The IRA killed hundreds of women and children throughout the 80’s and 90’s in their attacks – at least 1800 people in total. More than fourteen thousand people were injured in those attacks. The fact that they didn’t employ suicide bombers is hardly relevant – the tactical reality was, they didn’t have to. Conventionally planted bombs were more than destructive enough.

    But, you know, keep splitting hairs. Keep looking for that razor-thin distinction that allows you to convince yourself that the extremists in your camp aren’t anything to be worried about. Every time you admit that “ok, well, Christians can be terrorists, but when they do, they’re not quite as bad as TEH MOOSLEMS!”, the stronger my point becomes.

    “Trying to draw a moral equivalence between the two belittles the thousands of people who are killed in the Middle East for daring to oppose the status quo.”

    I don’t see a moral equivalence. But neither do I see the vast moral chasm that allows you, apparently, to conclude that Christian shit smells like roses.

  25. Justin says:

    “But seeing that I usually post first and last name, it won’t be an issue.”

    I’m sorry for being snarky before. I’m reticent to use my last name, and my last inital is the same as yours – “P”.

  26. Justin Paul says:

    Well, to be fair… the IRA did force Patsy Gillespie (a catholic working at a British army base- something they saw as traitorous) to drive a truck full with bombs into a British garrison. It wasn’t a suicide bombing per say, but they held his family at gun point during the action (gillespie did not know the van blow up). But Jay’s point stands. I think a huge point here is the die-hard conviction of so many Islamist terrorists. They don’t have a political agenda. I view the IRA and the armani suited proxies in Sinn Fein as total scum, but I recognize that they are not capable of the same scale of evil as Al-Qaeda. The same thing goes for the loyalist paramilitaries who killed in the name of God, Ulster, and the Queen.

    The scale of the threat posed by Islamist terrorists is far beyond what the average christian terrorist poses. This is in part due to the scale of the mission of Islamic terorrists and in part due to their contemporary world view (totally warped). But I don’t see this as Bible v Quran argument.

    I think Jay is emboldening the Islamist terrorists by making his statements the way he has. I don’t think the majority of muslims view Jihad as blowing up infidels. When one dismisses moderate muslim it then gives the extremists the final say or validity to define what is and is not Islam. The issue is here is a large and growing minority of Muslims who embrace this violent theology. They are more of a threat than many in the left realize. I hope that this issue is focused on.

    But I also don’t want history whitewashed. When the Pope quotes a 14th century Christian empire, he can claim no moral supremacy. In those days, Christians were just as vicious as Muslims. The bible was never really much of an influence for Christian empires or states in those days. By that I mean the Christian world was not a world of peace and tolerance, but one that was usually slightly less intolerant than the Muslim world. It was the removal of Christian theocratic positions from state apparatuses that helped the Christian world civilize. One problem is that much of the west is simply unaware of eastern christianity, which in its russian and hellenic manifestation was often very intolerant, cruel, and violent. Some might complain about the fall of Constantinople and Islam’s wiping out hinduism in Malaysia and Indonesia , what about the forced conversions of the muslim Chuvash and Gagauz by the Russians, what about the suppresion of the Buddhist Kalmyks? To me, it’s a wash.

    Show me a state that is overtly Christian in all its manifestations that was pluralist. I don’t think such a state ever could or would exist. The same applies to Muslims and of course their implementation of sectarian discrimination often takes on far more severe applications in daily and political life. The pope to me, as a centrist protestant, is a dinosaur attacking other slightly less appealing dinosaurs.

    We have learned nothing knew here. A significant number of Muslims (particularly in middle eastern arab states) can’t protest in proportion to what happened and generally make sectarian chauvanist asses out of themselves. On the other hand, Europeans, and particularly the Vatican, cling to archaic and outdated thought patterns and in general are out of touch with modern pluralism. Yawn, we learned the same thing after the Danish cartoon chrisis.

  27. Should the Pope have learned to shut up?…

    Should the Pope have exercised his right to remain silent?…

  28. n says:

    So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13: Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15: For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 18: I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 19: Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 20: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. John 13:12-20