“Salvation*” and “Freedom?”

It is ironic to find this story in that newspaper’s site

Nevertheless, it is striking, at least for me, that Benedict XVI who is head of an institution not famous in history for its tolerance of scientific dissent (or any dissent) is calling for religion to be discussed in terms of both faith and reason while supposedly secularist Egypt which is a signatory of international agreements protecting free speech and a free press is banning European newspapers for sacrilege and blasphemy.

The "Panzer Cardinal" has really come into his own.

The Bush Administration has flirted with the idea that there are "good" Islamists to be found in places like Egypt, and that they would be "change agents" for the neocon dream of a secularized Middle East.  It is probably the fear of ALL the Islamists that has caused the Egyptian Information Minister to act this way.

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson

My. My.

Benedict XVI and Mr. Jefferson seem to be on the same side in this argument.

Pat Lang


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26 Responses to “Salvation*” and “Freedom?”

  1. Matthew says:

    Why would “democrats” in the ME want to maintain the American status quo? Why would a more Democratic Iran want to serve the US?

  2. MarcLord says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Ah, no, a democratic Iran would be a disaster if you’re looking to control the region. One of the most screwed-up things the NeoCons believe is that democracies don’t fight each other, in fact Bush just made a statement to that effect last week. What an apotheosis!
    Victor Davis Hanson (who wrote the book Carnage and Culture) has been put forth as a neocon leading light, but makes precisely the opposite point: democracies are more lethal adversaries than kings or fiefdoms, and most lethal of all is when they fight each other. When that happens, it’s likely one of them is going down for the count after tremendous loss of life.

  3. MarcLord says:

    Col. Lang,
    The tolerance and faith message of the Pope’s speech in Regensburg was great, but its effect was spoiled. If I were trying to create negotiating room, I wouldn’t choose one of the emperor’s of the last Crusade to cite an example of religious intolerance. Do you think the effect was intended, or was just a vetting oversight?
    Insiders have made the case for naivete, and stated that if Monsignor Fitzgerald had been on the case the quote would’ve been quickly excised, but I don’t know:

  4. MarcLord says:

    Correction to above, I may have said the Pope quoted the Persian emperor rather than his scholar; I’m not sure the distinction matters to people who took offence, but I’d rather be accurate.

  5. Mo says:

    The question among those more cerebral in their reaction in the Arab world is not whether what he said is insulting or not nor whether a proper apology is ever given.
    The question is why would an intelligent man, with intelligent advisors in these days where the smallest slight is a touchpaper for extremist reactionaries, would make such a statement other than to inflame an already precarious world.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think you may have been thinking of someone else. This man was in no sense a crusader.
    Benedict seems to believe that faith and reason are out of balance in both Christendom and among Muslims. I believe that he is seeking to jump start debate within and between these communities on that issue.
    I doubt if he is much concerned with bruised feelings. pl

  7. JD says:

    Something I saw on European Tribune and thought you might enjoy. Alex has
    un certain petit discernement dans de tels sujets.
    A film about France’s colonial troops during WWII is cominng out tomorrow, and apparently Chirac, has seen it and gone “awwwww that’s so cutie cutie”, and then decided to (finally) re-index military pensions for veterans (ie. a veteran WWII soldier in Tunisia gets 61 euros per month, a veteran WWII soldier in France gets 600+ euros), which is quite convenient because there are far fewer veterans alive today than there used to be.
    This looks like a Hollywoodesque type of movie, makes me think of Band of Brothers. The protagonists are all men of honour and there seem to be clichés. Except the actors are Arabic in looks and mix in words in Arabic with their French. They kill Germans (I could say Nazis but these are regular troops), they do the Provence landing (Operation Anvil), they get treated like shit by the Army. Frankly if only for seeing an Algerian Spahi shooting a German trooper in a Spielberg-looking French village, this movie should be worth it. May wake up a few consciences.
    There seems to be no English part of the movies website yet, but you can see some trailers in French and make up your mind about it (ie. just click on each one of the Wind.Media.Player or QuickTime logos):
    by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 25th, 2006 at 05:36:54 AM EDT

  8. Mo says:

    Seeking a debate on faith and reason is laudable.
    But why would anyone choose to do so in such an inflammatory manner? I cannot believe he is that naive. Why would he, at the very least, put the Christian population of Islamic countries at risk from reactionaries or those just itching for a fight?

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Naive?” This assumes that he did not know what he was doing and that his priorities are the same as yours.
    The pope is pursuing major change in Western and Islamic thought.
    I am sure he feels concern for the remaining Christians in the Middle East, but the numbers have been shrinking through emigration for many years.
    You are Lebanese? You know the emigration situation there. Jordan? When I was young, Christians were 10% of the population. What are they now, 1%, 2%? Palestine? There are now less than 150,000 native Christians of all denominations in Palestine. They have been persecuted by all, and are “voting with their feet.”
    Maybe some things are more important than politics. pl

  10. Mo says:

    I use the word naive because that has been the excuse I have read most often. But like I say I don’t believe he is. That is why I wonder what exactly is his reasoning. Trying to engage Muslims to debate a move away from violence, especially the reactionary violence that has become all too common is praise-worthy. But his method of doing so does not strike me as one that is conducive to such a result. In fact, to my eyes he seems to be following the neo-con school. Much like they say they are fighting terrorism and doing everything in their power to encourage it, it strikes me that if you say you want a people of a faith to stop being so violent and tell them that the only reason they are violent is because their prophet was evil and violent you are simply inflaming the violent tendancies you wish to stop (if that made any sense)

  11. I think y’all may have missed part of the point of Benedict’s speech – some would say that he wasn’t talking about merging faith and reason so much as unveiling Counter Reformation 2K6: The Sequel. It wasn’t Islam he was dissing – it was humanism and mainline Protestant thought. Islam was merely a rhetorical device.
    I’d be curious to hear what you think if you check out Dr. Jackson’s piece over at Duck of Minerva; for me, it confirmed some trends I’d already observed and commented upon on my own blog.

  12. MarcLord says:

    Hi Colonel,
    Thanks for the correction re: Palaiologos. I read an article in the effort to fan the flames and sell papers and airtime which strongly implied that Palaiologos had supported the Crusade. I freely admit to having known nothing about him, now it’s almost nothing.
    Re: the Pope, my guess is that he put the reference in on purpose as a negotiating tactic. Putting an insult on the table at the start is a technique I’ve witnessed, been subject to, and have used in contract negotiations. It helps to define positions clearly so you can then focus on win-win. I personally don’t like to use it because it’s risky and when things start going in the wrong direction it takes tremendous effort to reverse them. However, if they’re going in the wrong direction anyway, you can also choose to speed them along until they burn themselves out.
    When the Pope apologized, it made me doubt the whole thing. Either way, the apology was very counter-productive.

  13. Larry McClelland says:

    I agree completely with P. Lang. If you follow the Vatican, several months ago Benedict said it was time to end the silence on persecution of Christians in Islamic Nations. Knee Jerk reactions would say he put Christians in danger, however pragmatically they were already in danger, i.e. slow death or force the issue. It shows courage that the Italian Nun chose to remain in Somalia when all the kings horses and all the kings men fled and cower and debate the Islamic Fundamentalist take over of that country from think tanks.

  14. Ingolf Eide says:

    Dr Jackson’s piece (as referenced immediately above by protected static) in turn led via comments on his page to an interesting attempt to analyse how and why the Pope might have come to make his comments:
    “Whom was the Pope addressing in the offending lecture? Some people have noted that the Pope’s words have caused some violence in the Moslem world, and imagine that this violence somehow proves the Pope correct. (It doesn’t – he wasn’t talking about that kind of violence.) And imagine that he was talking directly to the Moslem world. Surely we cannot see the Pope as some kind of provocateur, deliberately stirring up trouble in the Moslem world in order to demonstrate that Christianity is more civilized? This seems extremely unlikely, if only because this Pope probably doesn’t think the superiority of Christianity needs any demonstration.
    PTJ [Professor Jackson] constructs a system frame in order to make sense of the out-of-context quotation – what assumptions does the Pope seem to be making about his audience, in order that this quotation might contribute (albeit fallaciously) to his argument. According to PTJ, the Pope thought he was addressing Christians who share his ignorance about (and aversion to) Islam. If Islam is the Other, then the only acceptable course for Catholics is to believe the opposite of whatever Moslems believe.
    In short, PTJ assumes that the use of the offending quotation was carefully chosen to produce some (rhetorical) effect within some (academic) context. This explanation appears to be sufficient to explain the Pope’s original speech, as well as his professed surprise when the speech was widely interpreted as anti-Islamic. Within the system frame of giving an academic lecture, it might seem reasonable for the Pope to ignore effects outside this frame. But this system frame is embedded in a much larger system frame. The Pope has advisors who can warn him of the wider effects of his words, but only if he choses to listen to these advisors.
    In this situation, the Pope’s lack of awareness and lack of consideration must be regarded as (the consequence of) a strategic choice.”
    All speculation of course but as an explanation it seems to hang together reasonably well.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    protected static:
    I am in agreement with you.
    Larry McClelland:
    Vatican has diplomatic relations with many Muslim states.
    If the Vatican is interested in ameliorating the supposed persecution of Christains in Muslim states, he could deal with those states individually and through diplomatic channels. Furthermore, the Vatican could have sought to join the Organization of Islamic Conference in an Observer status.
    Col. Lang:
    The Pope cannot seek a major change in the relationship between Faith and Reason among Muslims – perhaps among Christians. The Pope, as a German Catholic Christian, is not in the moral, philosophical, social, religious, and theological position to affect such a change among Muslims. No Christian is; in my opinion but Muslims might at least listen to some one who is closer in geography and culture to them: an Arab Catholic or an Armenian Christian.
    There are vast chasms on all these between the Muslim and the Christian. They may be overcome at the individual dialogue level but not institutionally and through provocations.

  16. Matthew says:

    Babek: You have stated the problem diplomatically enough. I’ll be more blunt. Look at Gaza. Look at Lebanon. Look how the Christian States (yes, secular, to be sure, but Christian nevertheless) and the Jewish state rationalize these collective punishments. Look how little pang of conscience we feel about the more than 100,000 Iraqi civilian dead. Look how we ordered the provisional Iraqi government not to count the civilian dead. Until we change our behavior toward the Muslim world, words are worse than meaningless: they are disingenuous and, therefore, counterproductive. (Note that I did not include the Taliban. They deserved what they got for 9/11).

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am in agreement with you; and I salute and admire the few Israelis who have had the moral courage to go against the self-image of their country and call evil deeds Evil.
    You won’t get any argument from me about the Taliban: they were fools and the longer they satyed in power the worse they became.
    I think that the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims are fighting the wrong war; I see an encroaching age of barbarism (Godlessness) approaching: its slogans are science, rationality, civilization, progress, humanism, etc.

  18. MarcLord says:

    Wow, again. You have the empathy required of a great negotiator. But now I’ll ask you to stretch. How do we change our behavior in such a way that marginalizes Islam extremism? By beating up our evangelicals in the streets? The bad momentum is already established. What better opening stance do you think the Pope could’ve taken?
    I’m torn on this. I’ve blistered the Pope for his tactics in public (on my blog), for his apology screw-up and particularly because I think John Paul would’ve peeled the thorn-fruit better. Yet I’ve defended Benedict tooth and nail in private save-the-world discussions. It seems like the Pope himself is torn, and in this matter, he represents us in the West.

  19. Mo says:

    You say a change of behaviour is needed towards the Muslim world but add you did not include the Taliban as “they desrved what they got for 9/11”. Is’nt that the problem though? The Afghans suffered from the invasion aimed at the Taliban who were unrepresentative of the Afghan people. Isn’t your argument the very same rational used to attack Iraq (Saddam deserved what he got), Lebanon (Hizbollah deserved what they got), Gaza (Hamas deserve what they are getting)and isn’t it that argument of a whole nation paying for an attack on one person or group, without any regard or even regret for the civilian casulties the actual problem?

  20. Mo says:

    MarcLord, Islamic extremism cant be marginalised as such. It either exists because enough foot soldiers are signing up or dissolves because they are not. Take away the reasons why the foot soldiers are signing up, you take away the extremist groups.
    Of course the other not so small issue is of who decides which groups are considered extremist as many groups (Hizbollah, Hamas) are considered extremists in the West and moderate in the Muslim world.

  21. Jon Stopa says:

    “I think that the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims are fighting the wrong war; I see an encroaching age of barbarism (Godlessness) approaching: its slogans are science, rationality, civilization, progress, humanism, etc.
    Posted by: Babak Makkinejad”
    Makkinejad, Haven’t you noticed that the barbarism that is here NOW is caused by those very people you think are fighting the wrong war. Why are you so interested in fighting wars? The various religions have no way of proving themeslves correct because it is imposible to prove that God is one thing or another. Therefore, it is necessary to bop non-believers over the head until they agree with you.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Jon Stopa:
    Hafiz wrote:
    Excuse the Seventy-two-nation War:
    Truth, they did not see
    They trekked on Fable’ path !

  23. Babak wrote:
    I think that the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims are fighting the wrong war; I see an encroaching age of barbarism (Godlessness) approaching: its slogans are science, rationality, civilization, progress, humanism, etc.
    So then… That whole Enlightenment thing – overrated? Personally, I have no desire to party like it’s 1647; count me among those standing behind the banner of “science, rationality, civilization, progress, humanism, etc.”

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    protected static:
    If I were a Catholic, I would argue that the Enlightenment project has failed. I would point out to the carnage of the Napoleonic Wars, WWI, and WWII as direct consequences of the Enlightenment. In fact, Holocaust could not exist without the context of the Enlightenment project.
    Further, I would observe that the Pope & the Catholic Church’s supposedly oppressive policies brought far less death and destruction than the Enlightenment project.
    And I would like to point out that the Spanish Inquisition reported to the Spanish Crown and not to the Pope.
    Lastly, the adherents of that project, standing behind the banner of “science, rationality, civilization, progress, humanism, etc.”, cannot – in any way, shape, or form – guarantee the continued existence of human race: they need their thermonuclear weapons to assuage the Fear that dwells in their hearts. The President of the United States or the President of the Russian Federation have 3 minutes from when the first warnings are received, to decide whether 180 million human beings are to live or to die in the next 4 hours. (I am not even including the subsequent deaths.) This alone could be considered as an indictment of the Enlightenment project.

  25. Babak:
    First off, I wouldn’t get too smug about the Holocaust being a product of the Enlightenment. It was one of the first industrialized genocides, that’s all. History is rife with genocides, many on an astounding scale, given the technological limitations of the perpetrators.
    Second, the scale of destruction during the pre-Enlightenment era was limited only because they didn’t have the weaponry (see the previous point about the Holocaust). That’s cold comfort to, say, the ghosts of the various cities put to the sword during the Crusades, or the civilizations liquidated during the conquest of the Americas (to pull a couple of examples at random).
    As for peace and stability, no one can ‘guarantee the continued existence of the human race’. I don’t know where you get the idea that somehow the children of Abraham dividing the world up into theocratic spheres of influence would make things any less bloody. They’d turn on each other in a heartbeat, once they’d liquidated the insufficiently godly among them.

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    protected static:
    Your statements, in my opinion, actually confirm my point: that the Enlightenment project in no way, shape, or form, is qualitatively superior to what preceeded it. It is just more efficient: in feeding people, educating people, killing people.

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