Faith based initiative strikes back

It has been a spectacle for nonbelievers like myself to watch the pope “quote” an emperor from the past that Islam is a religion that has been spread by the sword. What is most savoring about all this is that for the first time it is not George Bush’s “fault”, nor is it a Zionist-Jewish plot to take over the world.

What is amazing about this new fireworks of ignorants going against each other is not that the Ratzinger is actually right. The irony is that the former Hitler youth pope presides over an institution that currently has trouble with its clergy misbehaving with minors and an institution that did not shy away from using the sword itself in exterminating its enemies, including a large number of Christians. As such, the credibility of the message is undermined despite the fact that what Ratzinger said was true and applies equally to his own institution. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Vatican only found out about religious tolerance and human dignity when it was no longer able to extend its interest by force, as it had for centuries, and had to start competing with other institutions of superstition in a secular free market.

Which brings me back to George Bush (and I will leave Jews alone for they never invade my privacy). In the same post I noted that it was wrong for GWB, as my president, to go to JP2’s funeral as the head of the state. Despite all the efforts of GWB to paint Islam as the “religion of peace”, Muslims have proven otherwise on numerous occasions. Therefore, my other hope/wish is that GWB stop calling Islam what it is clearly NOT and instead concentrate on materialistic affairs of this world that both his believer and non-believer supporters care about. Things like tax cuts for the rich, undermining of social security, more military expenditure instead of “investment”, less money for and PR in New Orleans, plans for invasion of Iran, etc. Otherwise, his non-believer supporters will have no reason to show at the voting booth and the Republican party will be left with the “Save Terry Schiavo”-cum-anti-abortion-cum-intelligent design fanatics.

Folks, I still continue to thank Allah for being a US citizen for I strongly believe that “of all tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.”

45 thoughts on “Faith based initiative strikes back”

  1. Thank you, Sulaiman, for proving what the Pope said is 100% correct, what he said about the postmodern world, that is. Also, the day you post something other than a rant is a day I shall thank God.

  2. Sulaiman, I think you are painting with a ridiculously broad and very sloppy brush here. Christianity today is generally benign, unlike some parts of Islam, and it therefore makes no sense to carp about Ratzinger’s hypocrisy since he is not being hypocritical. The worst that you can say about the Vatican today is that in recent years it’s done a poor job of management and has tolerated corruption by some priests. That’s bad but it represents a partial failure in a generally decent system that can almost certainly be fixed, rather than success in a malevolent system that we may have to fight to destruction. It’s a far cry from the Christianity of the Crusades, and more to the point, from Islam, which now has prominent sects that advocate forced conversion of nonbelievers and genocide against those who resist. Ultimately, your attempt to draw a parallel between the Church and the jihadists is so strained that it weakens the reasonable points that you made.

    Anyway, what’s wrong with tax cuts? I take it this was sarcasm but maybe I missed the point.

  3. If the point of the lecture had been to bash Islam then his own organisation’s history would weaken his position. However, Islam was entirely incidental to his argument.

    The reverence the church has for tradition is such that its leader doesn’t like to say “I’m in charge now and this is how it is.” He prefers to show, even if the policy he is executing is contrary to policies followed in the past, that the ideas it is based on have been around in the church for a long time – hence the 700-year-old citation to support the idea that conversion should be based on reason not force.

  4. The church has made apologies for using the sword,so I can’t see why it shouldn’t say that when other people use it’s not OK.

    All German boys were forced to enter Hitler youth…

  5. The irony is that the former Hitler youth pope presides over an institution that currently has trouble with its clergy misbehaving with minors and an institution that did not shy away from using the sword itself in exterminating its enemies, including a large number of Christians.

    I was reading another blog a few months after 9/11 (forget which one), and I allowed myself to get involved in a rather heated discussion with some good people from Greenland. Most of the details don’t matter, except that they insisted that Islam was really far more advanced than the Western world since Muslim scholars had made great strides way back in the 14th Century.

    That was just fine and dandy, I said, but what about now! What have they been doing for the past half a millenia while the West explored the planet and even went to others? The answer, of course, is that they have been stuck in the 14th Century while the rest of us have moved along to the 21st.

    The Islamic obsession with the far distant past, particularly with the Crusades, has always seemed to me to be extremely unhealthy. It is like a 75 year old street bum who still carries his high school football trophy around. Yeah, sure, he was hot stuff when he was 15. Why should the rest of us care?

    Speaking as someone who has actually worked in law enforcement, I would say that you are right that the Catholic church has a problem with policing its own ranks. (Or they did until recently. I haven’t heard anything as of late, which usually means steps are being taken.)

    But your claim that the current insitution can’t level criticism at Islamic violence currently going on throughout the world because they were violent themselves many hundreds of years ago? That has about as much chance to pass the smell test as an open sewer in August.

    Rioting Islamic mobs in many countries went a-hunting for innocent Christians to slaughter after the Imams got all upset over some Danish cartoons. More than 100 people died worldwide, many dragged from their homes or attacked in the street while they went about their business.

    But, of course, the Catholic bishops aren’t urging their flocks to go on a rampage and tear apart innocent Muslims. If that ever happens you might just have a point. Until that moment comes, however, you don’t.


  6. Jonathan – I am a flat-tax fundamentalist. No sarcasm here.

    As for Ratzinger, I do not see his agenda advancing the cause of liberty. To know him better, you should look up what his compatriot Germans think of him outside conservative Bavaria. The church has its own agenda of advancing the cause of superstition. As such, tactical alliances should not be confused with friendship. After all, we are also “allies” with Mushraff and House of Saud against OBL. Even Syria has cooperated with us against a common enemy. The pope, if he had the means, would force you and I into church (or make us wear a star or I don’t what for me) like Taliban did to Muslim Afghans. Thankfully, Western Civilization has defanged him and his institution.

  7. –Things like tax cuts for the rich, undermining of social security, more military expenditure instead of “investment”, less money for and PR in New Orleans, plans for invasion of Iran, etc.–

    These are a feature, not a bug.

    Have you ever talked to anyone who went thru Hurricane Floyd in 1999?

  8. Sulaiman, where is the evidence that the pope would oppress non-Catholics “if he had the means”? I just don’t see it, in this day and age. And anyway he doesn’t have the means, so even if one thinks he is evil (and I don’t) the existence of real religious fanatics, who are already oppressing some members of other religions and seek to convert or kill the rest, would seem to make this kind of speculation about the pope’s secret motives a waste of time. The big problems now are being caused by Islam and not by Christianity, Judaism, Budhism, Hinduism or whatever, and I think that in your zeal to condemn all religion you are in danger of muddying this central point.

  9. A key distinguishing feature of the history of Christianity and Islam is that Christianity spent its early centuries growing by converting the Roman empire where as Islam spread by the sword from early on. Whatever violent past in Christianity has much to do with the cultures converted rather than the converting culture, in contrast to Islam.

  10. ATM – Marxists make the same argument as you have made above about Christianity regarding the Soviet Union — i.e. misapplication of theory. There is a fundamental error in this kind of argument … the lack of understanding of law of unintended consequence. History is my evidence and there is no running away from it whether it is Christianity or Islam. To me they are like two thieves trying to steal the same bank of liberty at the same time. If Ratzinger (or mullahs of Islam) kept his mythology to himself, I would have no qualms with him.

  11. This may be the most meaningless, nonsense posting I have seen here. You’d be better off putting up more pictures of cats. This guy’s got nothing.

  12. suli
    “To me they are like two thieves trying to steal the same bank of liberty at the same time.”

    Which religon requires the females to wear burkas?
    Which religon puts apostates to death?
    Which religon thinks of Jews as “pigs and monkeys”?
    Was the Mufti of Jerusalem in 1940 a muslim ?
    Why was was he fighting with Hitler in the Balkans?
    Yea you Leftist dolt TRY doing moral equivalence.

  13. “The pope, if he had the means, would force you and I into church”

    No. Without going any farther back, as of he Second Vatican Council, that is unequivocally not the official position of the Catholic Church. See the Declaration on Religious Liberty.


    The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religous matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.

    Ratzinger was at the Council. He has had 40 years of writing and exercising authority since that time. There is no doubt whatsoever that he believes in these principles.

    The equivalence is just not there.

  14. Lex – Second Vatican Council admitted defeat. Your morality changes according to the level of power you hold. Vatican would have come with some other declaration if the institution could field armies. I am sorry to say it but you have failed to realize that religion is a cover for self-interest.

  15. Which brings me back to George Bush (and I will leave Jews alone for they never invade my privacy)
    Was this meant to be a joke?

    I suppose we, Jews, have to be grateful to Sulaiman for leaving us alone.

  16. Sulaiman, how old are you? Let me say, your writing makes you sound like you are 13, with a VERY bad case of teenage omniscience, since, no matter what evidence is presented to you, you still KNOW that you are right.

  17. Scotus – attacking me personally like the fanatics of Islamic world will not get you too far. Concentrate on the message, not the messenger.

  18. Sulaiman, there is no message to attack. You are an anti-religion fanatic impenetrable to reason and argument, and this the simple and very sad truth of the matter. Oh, BTW, when it comes to personal attacks, all I have to say to you is “Hello pot, meet the kettle, for what goes around comes around.” After all it was not I who coined such immortal phrases as “Hitler Youth Pope” and the decomposing of John Paul II.

    But, since I have pointed out your personal flaws I will admit one of mine own. I have been thinking why I bother to communicate with you. I think it’s because you remind me of the occasional “know it all,” atavistic students I have the misfortune of dealing with. I can say to you what my professionalism won’t let me say to them. I admit it’s not very mature of me, but it sure feels good! Isn’t the free marketplace of ideas wonderful!

  19. Scotus – religion is not exactly the realm of reason. It is the realm of blind faith.

    Hitler Youth — is it not a fact that Ratzinger was a Hitler youth?

    Decomposed — don’t bodies decompose after they get buried?

    I don’t know why you take facts as offense in a manner that we are currently witnessing on Islamic street. I thought you were open to facts and reasoning. You can cut me down but if people like me do not show up at the voting booth, you will end up with Madam Speaker Pelosi in November. Then see if you can reason with hare-brained liberals … they will throw your crosses out of every public place whereas I could care less whether crosses are standing (or are not standing) at my local gov’t office.

  20. Sulaiman, since you respect facts so much you should respect the fact that you are an anti-religion fanatic impenentrable by reason and argument with a very bad case of teenage omnisicence. You have now added teenage petulence by your threat to stay home (no doubt along with the legions you imagine in support of you) on election day so that we poor Christians will end up in the evil clutches of Pelosi et al.

  21. Sulaiman,

    Why are religious faith and reason mutually exclusive? Religion may involve faith but it generally involves tradition. It seems to me that one may rationally observe a religious tradition (Islam included, BTW) for multiple reasons, including the observed fact that that tradition has provided a successful model for living for many people over time. The fact that you personally do not find religious doctrine or tradition useful does not change the fact that many other people do.

    BTW the Hitler Youth canard is ridiculous. Yes, he was a member, but it’s meaningless now. He was a kid and probably had no choice, and it’s obvious from his behavior in the many decades since the War that he is no Nazi sympathizer. (And anyway I doubt that a Nazi sympathizer could be elected Pope.) So if you continue to bring up the Hitler Youth membership, even though it’s literally true that Ratzinger was a member, you can expect people to take it as a slur, and I think reasonably so.

  22. The best reinforcement for Jonathan’s point is Benedict’s speech itself.

    Sulaiman you may want to reread it.

    It is an argument for reason, for listening, for an open marketplace. It is an argument that force has no place in such discussions. It respects reason much more highly than Sulaiman has done in his posts. That is not especially a slur on Sulaiman – it is respect for Benedict’s message.

    Of course, he is Pope and he thinks the truth lies within his beliefs. I can’t imagine why we would expect him to make any other argument. He believes, I am sure, we would all be better off if we, through our reason, chose his faith. But that is the given. Nonetheless, he demonstrates that the last thing he wants is someone who has made the same choice to have done so at the point of a sword – or without thinking.

    (I suspect I am making the argument a Catholic might make; unlike a Catholic, however, I can make this argument because I am not so emotionally involved.)

  23. Ginny – I completely agree with you. And I agree with what the pope said too. My points are that he is the wrong messenger given his role (and stature) in world affairs and then an unneeded apology that only proved to the other side that their violence was justified.

    I think the pope should stick to his religious duties with which I have qualms … things like presiding over his own clergy, marriage/birth/baptist cermonies, Sunday worship, etc … he should be more worried about his own flock and let us take care of the “dialogue of civiliation.” After all, the pope thinks that his message is universal (doesn’t the word catholic mean universal?) and, as such, he should not differentiate between different children of God. We are a snapshot of a very long changing movie of the universe and our petty fights in this world are beneath what the pope is trying to preach after all!

  24. Jonathan — points well taken.

    Through reasoning I have reached the point of “no religion” in my life although my in-laws think I will burn in hell more than once for not teaching my kids Islamic dogma. I find more meaning and more intellectual honesty in secular humanism. By no means, I advocate this for everyone else. In fact, I think my apolitical elderly grandmother is quite well off (at least psychologically) when she bows down and prays five times a day. I have never even argued with her why she does that despite the fact that she does not understand the words of her own prayer. So I do I agree with what the pope said at the German university. My contention is with the pope meddling with issues he no business with — state affairs that Christ explicitly asked his Jewish followers to avoid. The pope should be more worried about salvation than about Islamic violence which he unintentionally provoked (a bit like provoking wild animals).

  25. Stevely – it is indeed hard to take criticism of your sacred cows. We are witnessing it on both sides. I thought Voltaire said something about free speech and blasphemy that was posted on the top page of this blog a while back … perhaps it meant nothing to some of the readers.

  26. Sulaiman, the dividing line between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s is not nearly so clear as you think. What you call the Pope’s meddling, others call his witness. The Pope addresses both your truncated understanding of reason and simplistic understanding of the relationship between the sacred and the secular in the very speech that started it all. You should reread it (or, as the case may be, read it for the first time).

  27. Scotus – thanks for the paternal advice. Long before Christianity and other institutionalized supernatural believes, Greece and Rome were applying reason to human life and created some of highest peaks of Western civilization. The advent of Christianity froze Europe into 1,000 years of darkness and Eastern Europe, which never saw a challenge to established religious authorities like the Muslim world, continues to remain the realm of faith & ignorance. Japan, Korea, and Tawain produce great science today … but they are essentially religiousless/pagan societies as far as you and I understand religion. Indian researchers in the US universities are doing great science … and no thank you, they do not need Jesus to save them from the flames of hell. Pope’s arguments are very similar to the ones that “moderate” Islamic scholars like Khatami make … an admission of their past failures in providing better health care and other material goods for humanity … call it institutional mutation for survival of clerical interest. I, however, have found more intellectual honesty in secular humanism.

    P.S. Your tone has improved a bit. I appreciate reasoning & dialogue over calling me names like an immature child. Your previous tone was contrary to the teachings of your own religious beliefs.

  28. Sulaiman, my tone has “improved” because yours has. (BTW, I admited I was lacking in charity, but I believe my tone was an appropriate match for yours, and I stand by everything I said.) Your comparison of the Pope’s speech to Khatami’s proves to me either you did not read it or, for whatever reason, did not understand it. Also, your view of history is pure fantasy as is your view of present day Eastern Europe. While you cite no sources for your claims, I will cite for mine Aristotle’s Children. If the Pope’s thought is over your head, I paternally suggest you begin your remediation with Rubenstein’s book.

  29. “The advent of Christianity froze Europe into 1,000 years of darkness”

    Like the expansion Islam had no effect.
    Geez you’re historical idiot.

  30. I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. The pope has QUOTED something. QUOTED. In an EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT text that would awe Sulaiman if he had read it in the first place.

    I’m outta here. It sure looks like a 13-year-old text to me.

  31. Scotus: why the personal attacks?

    “You are an anti-religion fanatic impenetrable to reason and argument”

    I disagree. Faith (religion) and Reason are two opposing poles. The above statement is therefore a contradiction. I think it is difficult to be both anti-religious and impenetrable to reason at the same time. One gains knowledge either through reason or faith and not both. Subsequently reason or faith guides ones actions. Both can co-exist but only when faith (religion) respects reason and not vice versa.

    I think Sulaiman is not anti-religious but is a champion of reason. If I may borrow Ayn Rand’s words, Sulaiman is probably a uncompromising athiest, but not a militant one. He fights for reason not against religion. He respects religion in its philosophical aspects as it serves a utilitarian purpose.

    Finally, religion must be kept out of the political sphere.

  32. KiyariMG,

    Offering an assesment of a person based upon what he says (especially when he cliams what he has said is a thoughtful exposition of what he has thought carefully about) is not a personal attack. It is, in fact, a use of reason, and we all do it everyday. I fear that you too suffer from the very same prejudiced attitude against religion and truncated understanding of reason (not to mention tendentious grasp of history) as Sulaiman. Finally, based upon her work, in my judgment, Ayn Rand was an anti-(traditional) religion fanatic impenetrable to reason and argument. (The reason for the parenthetical comment in the previous sentence is I consider Rand’s “objectivism” a faith-based secular religion. After all, how does ATLAS SHRUGGED end — with the high priest of “objectivism” John Gault giving his benediction to the new world with the Sign of the Dollar.)

  33. I think it is difficult to be both anti-religious and impenetrable to reason at the same time.

    Isn’t this a somewhat bizarre false dichotomy? I would allow that anti-religious people can be both reasonable and unreasonable and that religious people can be both reasonable and unreasonable. Someone who believes as you have stated (surely you don’t mean?) demonstrates unreasonableness as well as intolerance.

  34. Ginny – you are not on the same page. I am talking about Reason vs. Faith. I am not talking about reasonable or unreasonable people.

    I am talking about how to gain knowledge, through faith or reason.

    thus i cant answer your questions.

    Scotus – lets stop playing with words. i suggest you talk about the message as opposed to labelling people. lets not make an assessment of people but an assessement of the subject/message. we are talking about religion vs faith. i suggest you consult the law of identity: ie A is A. how could rand’s philosophy which is based on reason be a “faith-based secular religion”. sounds more like Ellsworth Toohey who plays around with words.

  35. KiyariMG

    Assessing your words, I am reminded of a comment a professor wrote on a paper turned in by Theo on the old COSBY SHOW. To wit: “You use too many words, and you don’t understand the words you use.” Also, although I know this will, in you own mind, confirm I am nothing but a religious fanatic, I can’t resist telling you I am also reminded of Romans 1:22 — “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”

    P.S. Rand’s philosophy is about as reasonable as OBL’s.

  36. Worshipping Reason is not the same as possessing it. Mistaking means for end, you misunderstand the law of identity. Most of us do not see Faith and Reason as opposed in the manner you do.

  37. KiyariMG,

    BTW, I take it that, since you cast me in the role of Ellsworth Toohey, you must be casting yourself in the role of Howard Roark. I concede a very slight truth in your casting of me, but I make this concession in the absolute certainty that the very slight truth I concede is infinitely greater than the “truth” you arrogate to yourself by your self-casting.

  38. If we cannot agree on the definition of words then there is no point arguing.

    To sum up, I strongly believe in free markets and the separation of church and state. Religion should be kept in the home and within the community level otherwise every society will degenerate into the dark ages or the likes of Afghanistan. Once religion is institutionalized then disaster prevails.

    Capitalism is the only system/institution that has raised the standard of living and has brought peace and stability to its citizens.

    If you disagree then I suggest you consult some history books.

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