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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Christianity vs. Islam « Previous | |Next »
September 17, 2006

Despite the Israeli destruction of Lebanon in the second Lebanon war we have comments by Pope Benedict XVI that, as a religion Islam, is tainted with violence. It was part of a lecture delivered at the University of Regensburg in Germany, where Benedict was a professor and vice-rector in 1969-71. In the lecture Bendict argued for two positions: reason must be part of religion; and civilisation needs religion.

The comments about violence and Islam were made in the form of a criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. The Pope quoted the following remarks without qualification and with apparent approval:

The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war. He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

A Catholic saying that, given the history of Catholicism and its known hostility to Islam? To say that Islam is evil and inhumane overlooks that Islam is a big tent with many competing worldviews (eg., Muslim liberals and fundamentalists). Why not self-criticise Christianity's violent past and its forced conversions? Why not recall the time when medieval Christendom fought science the relationship between faith and reason in traditional Islam was a cooperative one. This, after all, is the political context of today:


Benedict 's rhetoric collapses the differences between Islam and terrorism, and sets up good Catholicism (genuine, reasoned faith) vs. evil Islam (the coercive demand for unreasoned faith). If Benedict's point was to illustrate the fundamental contradiction between religion and holy war, isn't spreading the Christian faith through violence also something unreasonable?

Still, the reaction in the Muslim world is over the top, and, ironically, illustrates the Pope's point about violence, reason and religion. Benedict has since apologized. The conservatives are going to have a great time reworking the reaction from the Muslim street into the meme about a violent Islam attacking western civlization. The subtext of the conservatives is that Islam and the Western democracies cannot live together peacefully. Violence is used to illustrate their case.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:49 PM | | Comments (10)


Gary this essay provides a unique criticism of the posturing of popes, cardinals, bishops and the corresponding Islamic variations.


Isn't christianity vs islam all ready set up?

Martin Luther King JR vs Malcolm X?

yes. But the previous Pope---John Paul II--- worked to soften the hard edges between Christianity and Islam through dialogue. He was the first Pope to pray in a mosque (in Damascus in 2001), and won Muslim appreciation by apologising for the crusades and by his staunch opposition to the Iraq war.

The current pope--Benedict XVI--- looks to harden them the edges--- he is more confrontational with his portrayal of Islam as a totallizing and authoritarian system beyond reason. He is on record as having commented that, at its core, Islam is non-democratic. Isn't the Catholic Church?

Maybe the conservatives in the Catholic Church are worried about a Muslim takeover of Europe; or more accurately the threat of Islam to Christendom? Is that why Benedict turns back to the Byzantine emperor Manuel II?

On the other hand, Benedict's main confrontation in the past has been with what he sees as an increasingly intolerant secularism in Europe. If so, then he could see Islam as an ally in that battle. That would be the politically smart thing to do.

Gary, the 'Muslim world's' reaction would be over the top if Pope's words were an isolated incident. But I'm sure they are seeing it as more evidence of an orchestrated campaign against Islam and to promote a Christian -v- Islam Holy War.

Its hard to argue they are wrong.

I was thinking of the various torchings of Christian Churches in the West Bank and Gaza as a violent response--not the reasoned critique of Benedict's caricature of Islam.

I agree you can interpret Benedict's remarks in terms of a clash of civilizations---nay even defending (western) civilization itself from the evil doers. It's a reasonable interpretation given the 14the century context of the Byzantine emperor, who became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.

It evokes the Christian Crusades doesn't it and so the Muslims as the shadow-self of Christendom In the linked op. ed. Karen Armstrong says:

Christians were projecting subterranean disquiet about their activities on to the victims of the Crusades, creating fantastic enemies in their own image and likeness. This habit has persisted. The Muslims who have objected so vociferously to the Pope's denigration of Islam have accused him of "hypocrisy", pointing out that the Catholic church is ill-placed to condemn violent jihad when it has itself been guilty of unholy violence in crusades, persecutions and inquisitions and, under Pope Pius XII, tacitly condoned the Nazi Holocaust.

Historical references can cut both ways.

I understood the old fellow finally realised an error and apologised.
Rather than being a troublemaker he was just having a (long) "senior's moment".
Therefore at worst, only, is he a bigot. More likely, senescence is just begining to poke its rude nose through the doors of time ?
Well, why wasn't someone else PROOF-READING his stuff, for just the sort of stuff-up that has occurred?
Only our own "mad mullahs", John Howard and Alan Jones, the other mad mullahs of the mid east and the zionist ultra orthodox fundamentalist splinter groups match Baruch for his infantility, otherwise.
But the defects of the Catholic church with its antiquated structure and legendary incompetence are yet again exemplified.

Lateline had an interview with an academic on the American University in Rome---he said it was probably an unintentional error (unlike the Danish cartoons). It wasn't read for the politics because he has changed his media and research advisors, it was just a lecture to a faculty of Regensburg University, and he was a good scholar.

On the other hand, the academic said that Benedict held firmly to the superiority of Christianity and that his other target is secularism. Benedict's position is that Western godless atheism is unreasonable, as is hard line coercive religion that disregards reason (Islam). Thus, the Catholic Church, with its reasoned faith, is superior as it avoids the errors of the two extremes (Western secularism and Islam).

Gary and other contributors, thanks for fill-ins.
So, it is true.
What rational people are being subjected to, is a re-run of the furphies of neo McCarthyism. Every thing from Huntingdon to Miranda Devine, Alan Jones, Abbott and Howard, with a bit of Opus Dei thrown in.
These individuals are notorious for their lack of self-reflexivity; their willingness to inventory everyone else without once subjecting themselves to the same rigours they impose on others.

Had the pope been objective he would have mentioned the influence of civilised Islam disseminated into European culture through greatful Europeans like Alphonso the Wise during Medeival times. He would fixed upon Islamic and some Jewish philosophy as the basis for Aquinas' critique of the Dark Ages interpretation of the role of Augustine's "faith alone" in a changing world. Hence Benedict might have won over many Muslims by mentioning the source of Thomist reason. Would that have been such a sacrifice, or was it too much of a threat to his boast of the Exclusive virtue of catholicism?

As to preconditions to possibility , could I commend instead the "The Triumph or Twilight of Platonism?", by Dr. Dennis Kenny in the Spring 2006 edition of "Dissent" magazine.
Kenny anticipated beautifully the Pope's most recent outburst, from previous holdings-forth concerning the "dictatorship of relativism" ( Benedict Xiv), against "a massive affirmation of the...bedrock assumptions...abiding absolute values and timeless truths...of western civilisation" (Kenny, backgrounding Benedict) that conservatives so take for granted.

Kenny paraphrasing a journalist, Jane Kramer, consequently suggesting it might be "more accurate if he had claimed we were threatend by a 'dictatorship of absolutes', including his ( Benedict's) own".
Being a genuine scholar, Kenny then embarks on examination of the Athenian, Christian and Newtonian roots of western civilisation, in relation to some of the more peculiar attitudes it holds today towards "others".

I think someone above mentioned the above topic in relation to the ideological justification for the modern imperialist moves against the Middle-East. The current nonsense could certainly be used fore comparison to the uncomfortably similar ideological garbage dreamed up by Hitler, Goering and Goebbells, employing communists and Jews as scapegoats, to justify WW2.

stupid!!! watz da point to judge others' religion??? hm!!! for me, there is no specific WORDS FROM GOD/ALLAH about which is the true religion that human need to follow and practise in their life until the end of their life... isn't it?? if have, please correct me with proves.
before we talks about religion,how about we use our mind(from GOD/ALLAH) to think about what happen to our world... do U.S know what is the reason that Iran wanted to have nuclear?? do U.S know what are the difficulties that Iran people have which leads them to have nuclear as their conclusion?? then, why U.S threatan Iran so that they will cancel their plan to have nuclear? stupid!!! okay... next, personally i know that islam is as holy as christian no matter catholic or protestant. why should christian and islam quarrel? don't their came from the same root of family..Abraham??? think human!!!! why the lame POPE BENEDICT should say that the islam and mohammad s.a.w practise/believe in a bad religion?? the POPE have nothing to do is it? WHO THE HELL GIVE THE POPE BENEDICT TO VOICE UP LIKE THAT?? i thought that the POPE should be the one who can think rationally and should give advice and have a holy life and also should be the perfect model to christian?? shame on u...
okay, yess!!!let's say that everyhuman makes if the king in the 14 century did the mistake by putting bad words on islam and the pope knew it so, why should the pope (now) still wanted to repeat it... and say sorry. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SORRY????? SORRY MEANS PROMISE NOT NOT NOT TO DO OR REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKE ANYMORE. please....POPE, U R LETTING YOUR OWN RELIGION, BROTHERS/SISTERS(in christ) and FAMILY DOWN.... think!!! u old man...

Why are the crusades such a sore point for the muslim world? the first occured like 900 years ago, in response to Muslim agression against the Byzantine empire which had endured countless attacks over the past hundred years or so.

Why discuss islam instead of christianity? because its relevant to today, christian extremism doens't hold a candle to islamic extremism in support and power.