In honor of the late Oriana Fallaci

Eric from Classical Values proposes Something along the lines of a Judeo-Christian-Atheist Alliance in defense of the West.

Ms. Fallaci was an Atheist who valued the cultural heritage of the West, and correctly saw that it was in grave danger from Islamic violence and terrorism. She met with Pope Benedict XVI, to discuss these matters not long before her death. The Pope is willing to say things Muslims don�t like, without apologizing for it, either. Good.

Everyone who values freedom and the cultural heritage of the West, even accepting the differences among our interpretation of those things, now has a common enemy. We should work together to defeat that enemy. We can work out our very important differences as civilized people, in a lawful manner, by argument, persuasion, electoral politics, litigation — but not suicide-murder bombings, or video-taped beheadings, or mob violence or fatwas.

I am an orthodox Roman Catholic, and I am very open to the idea.

So, query, how to give some practical effect to such a proposed alliance?

UPDATE: The exact language used by the Pope, with a link to the full speech, is below the fold

UPDATE II: Perry de Havilland says “sign me up”

…The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the “whole” of the “universitas scientiarum,” even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: It had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: This, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by professor Theodore Khoury (Muenster) of part of the dialogue carried on — perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara — by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

It was probably 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 the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the “three Laws”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran.

In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point — itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself — 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 (“di�lesis” — controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion.” It 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 Koran, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: “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 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. …

Full text here.

19 thoughts on “In honor of the late Oriana Fallaci”

  1. John Paul II is in Heaven, of course, interceding for us all with his prayers, including you, Sulaiman. You must have imagined the word “Marxists”, since I didn’t write it. Social Democrats, and any law-abiding people of good will on the Left, who are against Islamic terrorism, are of course welcome.

  2. Your 100% certainty against my 100% certainty?

    What to do in the meantime? Focus on the things we agree about.

    I am hopeful you will be surprised, when the day comes. And you are welcome.

  3. Mine is based on a lot of stuff.

    But, for now, I bet there is a lot of stuff we can agree on to get this Oriana Fallaci Society going. You are devoted to the Western enlightenment, as you have written in the past. You believe in defending the values of free inquiry, free speech, I presume also free exercise of religion — or to freely exercise no religion, as your conscience dictates. Can we not agree on those values, you as an atheist and me as a Catholic? A Catholic of the year 2006, not 206 or 1206 or 1606, to be clear. Then can we agree that if someone wants to impose on us both a society based on coercion in those categories, who wants to use violence instead of law-abiding means to do, we are both opposed to them?

  4. I am 99% with you! I will correct you on one issue though … don’t confuse Deism with Atheism — Allah is too big to fit man-made institutions of superstition & fraud. You will have 100% of my vote IF you leave religion at home. In the 2004 election I even sent money to the RNC … this year I have troubling taking myself to the voting booth because I sincerely believe that 2 years of minority status for the Republicans will expose the Democrats to the public and will make Republicans become more cautious in terms of what I care about in future elections.

    Good night!

  5. I believe Lex will be nearer to the sainted John Paul II in Heaven than I will be (if I even get there), for the charity and forbearance he shows to Sulaiman comes close to heroic virtue. It is certainly much more than I can muster. Sulaiman, your certainty is not based on the null hypothesis is is simply null and comes from arrogance rooted in the pusillanous need to tear others down so that you can feel good about yourself. This is shown by your adolescent need always to have the last word, which I will give you because it proves my point.

  6. Such a coalition is essential–but it will be difficult to achieve. Many secularists are absolutely convinced that the primary threat to their freedom comes from Christian Americans, and it seems that no amount of evidence can convince them that there are much greater threats elsewhere.

    I’m reminded of the defenses of the then-British colony of Singapore in WWII. The planners were convinced that any attack would come from the sea and that the land route was impassable: thus, the seaward side was heavily fortified and the landward side not at all. Guess which way the Japanese actually came?

    Many “progressives”, especially in academia, seem to have minds as unmoveable as were the steel and concrete fortifications of Singapore.

  7. Scotus, I understand that Sulaiman is from Afghanistan and hance has more experience with erious religious opproession than any of us. So, while I disagree with him, I understand how he could arrive at an attitude of “a plague on all their houses” regarding religion. So, it does not require heroic anything, just an awareness of whom I am talking to. Plus, as a practical matter, we both value freedom, and we both oppose its enemies. We can sort out our differences about religion by means of civil conversation. But our mutual enemies will require a different type of language.

  8. Lex, I understand the need for practical alliances, e.g. the USA and the Soviet Union against Hitler. For the duration, however, the Americans and and Soviets, more or less, put aside their differences. Sulaiman strikes me as singularly unwilling to do this. Now that I know his background, I have nothing but compassion for the terror of his formative years. It is very sad, however, not to say ironic, that his suffering at the hand of religious fanatics seems to have turned him into an anti-religious fanatic, equally impenetrable to reason and whose conversation, when it comes to religion, is anything but civil. BTW, I still think that, when it comes to dealing with Sulaiman you (and Jonathan) are able to muster much more charity than I. I only hope your compassion and patience eventually bear fruit.

  9. Mine is not experience-based. I suffered more under communist dictatorship and my fear of Islamic fundamentalism did not arise until 9/11. In fact, religion was not even on my radar screens and I happily led a life without mysticism and superstition becoming a distraction until that fateful day when fate-based initiative struck us all. Communism destroyed my childhood. I fear that religion might do the same to my kids’ who I will protect jealously from religious pollution.

    9/11 and the writings of Volataire (and many other brave Muslims who have been silenced) along with what I observe on daily basis have arounsed my suspicion of the Kingdom of Ignorance.

  10. … forgot to thank you in the post above:

    Scotus & Lex – I appreciate yor post-modern Freudian psycho-analysis of myself but both of you are wrong.

    Also, I WAS from Afghanistan. That was fate on which I had no control over. By choice, USA and the Constitution and its protection of individual liberties from external and internal enemies will remain ubber alles for me.

  11. “post-modern Freudian psycho-analysis”

    Not me, baby. Sorry to drag your personal history into it, if it is irrelevant.

    “…USA and the Constitution and its protection of individual liberties from external and internal enemies …”

    I too am a strong supporters of these things.

  12. Sulaiman, Your experience may be different than mine, but I’ve felt more freedom to express my relatively secular world view that is strongly influenced by the values of our Constitution &, indeed, of our country’s history when I’ve been around those of quite divergent but fervent beliefs. An appreciation for the Constitution, for instance, is not always characteristic of those who view Christianity as you do.

    I’ve felt most free on this blog with a Jew like Jonathan, an uber Catholic like Lex – or among my colleagues, with a proud & strongly believing Baptist & Scotus & a charismatic Catholic.

    It is common to mistake a lack of belief for tolerance – they are not the same thing. Nor is it tolerance when others expect you to hide beliefs or non-beliefs. It has been my unfortunate experience to find those that don’t believe feel the necessity of criticizing others’ beliefs. Perhaps that is just an academic experience, but it has been consistent over a fairly long period. The more we keep this on a reasoned approach, the more useful our discussion can be. (And I mean the Brit/American Enlightenment tradition that sees reason as a means to an end – rather than the French one.)

  13. Sign me up, please! To respond to Lex’s question as to how best to carry this forward, perhaps the answer for the moment is simply recruit, spread the word, since action would seem to depend on how many of us there are and where we are located? I’m in London, England.

    My ancestors stretching back into the C19th were atheist-feminist Hard Left, I read French and Italian at the University of London, special subject Voltaire, and became a Taoist-Sufi flower-child. My ‘agenda’ is the supremacy of language, logic, liberty and love – and the capacity of most human beings to be intellectually and emotionally mature, and not go psycho because they’ve read something they don’t like.

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