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  • Minor Aside

    Posted by Ginny on September 18th, 2006 (All posts by )

    Update: Modern news makes thoughtful discussion difficult; the nature of the media is that reporters do what any sensible human being would not: chop up the Pope’s speech in such a way that drama would abound, a nun would be murdered & churches burned. Those who committed these atrocities are at fault – not the reporters. But the reporters do make any discussion on the level Lex suggets difficult in any public forum. If the press had intelligence & moral levels that came anywhere close to their levels of self-righteousness, real discussions might be more common. Noting all this, the network of 24-hour Anna Nicole Smith did put up a discussion that brings a certain clarity to the discussion of Benedict’s depth.

    Second Update: Instapundit links to this piece by the Anchoress (on Pajamas Media) that argues the Pope is, indeed, the person to confront Islamic beliefs. Since the positions Islamists take are religious, they should be, she argues, dealt with in terns if a religious dialogue. Certainly, the validity of forced conversion is the province of the religious and not the secular.

     

    50 Responses to “Minor Aside”

    1. GFK Says:

      It’s rare the MSM gets anything right anymore, but I think this is the rare case where it doesn’t matter. However it’s sold, muslims are over-reacting, violently, attacking christian churches and threatening the life of the pope.

      muslims have been attacking christians for a long time, but this time it’s different. It got on all the news channels and there is no way they can attribute it to “territorial disputes” like they’ve tried to do with the rest. These attacks were obviously in retaliation for “the speech.”

      When Mullah’s use attacks and violence to, in their odd way, get sympathy and portray themselves as victims of the evil American and Jewish cabal they will keep Europe and Latin America on their side, but when they start rioting and burning down random christian churches because they don’t like what the leader of another religion said about their faith they then run a real risk of scaring off those sympathizers.

    2. david foster Says:

      Benedict is a genuine intellectual, capable of investigating questions with subtlety and in depth. I doubt that there are very many journalists–print or video–who are capable of really following his writing, much less communicating it accurately to their own audiences. It’s kind of like trying to send feature-length movies over a 50 baud teleprinter circuit. The bandwidth just isn’t there.

    3. Sol Vason Says:

      In his speech Benedixt points out that the noted Islamic scholar “Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word…”.
      Wow!! This would really upset me if I were a Muslim.

      It means there might not be 77 virgins awaiting dead terrorists in heaven; that killing apostates might be wrong; that God does not approve of shooting nuns in the back or burning churches. It might mean that everything God told Mohammed has been revised

      As for that other quote. Benedict is Christianity’s chief salesman. Its his job to put down the opposition and build up Christ’s side.

      If this is how these mobs react to a 1400 year old argument, then any election campaign will be really be bloody.

      By the way, what are we going to do next year when these guys all have nukes (but nobody knows where the nukes came from)?

    4. Lex Says:

      I left the following on that Anchoress post:

      “…may well prove to be the catalyst which shames Islam (currently finding itself unable to murmur I forgive, I forgive, about anything at all) into finally putting down its swords.”

      Sorry, but you were going along great until you lost me there. There is no way there can be “mutual” respect, so there is no way that Muslims can feel shame at using violence to spread their religion. It is the essence of their religion to spread it by force of arms. They can no more give up jihad to compel submission to their religion, just for the sake of getting along with non-believers, than we Catholics can give up the seven sacraments or the three theological virtues or the virgin birth just to get along with non-Catholics.

      Their religion is what it is, and we should respect it enough to see that these elements of it that we don’t like cannot be wished away.

      As a consequence, it is giving Muslims no less than the respect they are due, by taking their beliefs seriously, to recognize that their Allah and their Mohammad requires them to do whatever is necessary to destroy our religion and exterminate from the face of the Earth those who insist despite coercion on practicing it.

      So be it. That is their religion. I respect it. They believe that God has ordered them to do these things. I would not expect them to disobey such a command.

      Part of my respect for Islam is recognizing that there is no point in having a conversation with people who hold such beliefs. I am only interested in proposals to defend ourselves and use all legitimate means to defeat our enemies. We are already engage in an existential war and conversation, other than to obtain tactical advantage, is pointless.

      “Certainly, the validity of forced conversion is the province of the religious and not the secular.” The validity is not an open question: For Catholics any so-called conversion by force is invalid, at least since the Second Vatican Council. For Muslims, from what I have read, compelled conversions are entirely legitimate, and exercising that compulsion where it is possible to do so is a duty. The Pope seems to believe there is a basis for a conversation on this point. The response to his comments will, I hope, cause him to change his mind about this view.

      It appears to me, therefore, that the “province” that is implicated is primarily one of defence against those who propose to do the forcible converting. This is a political, law enforcement, and military matter, much more than a religious one. The religious questions are “open and shut cases”. Who will prevail in the struggle by Islmaic militants to forcibly convert their co-religionists to their version of Islam, and ultimately the entire world, is an open question, since the conflict is very much ongoing.

    5. Liar Says:

      Can someone explain why anyone would expect mainstream media to be more sophisticated and/or subtle or erudite than their readers?

      I get a sense that slamming the mainstream media is a bit like beating up on class nerd: something to fend off a rising tide of intellectual security.

    6. Liar Says:

      ahem…make that “a rising tide of intellectual insecurity.”

    7. david foster Says:

      “Can someone explain why anyone would expect mainstream media to be more sophisticated and/or subtle or erudite than their readers?”

      Can someone explain why anyone would expect auto mechanics to know more about cars than their customers?

    8. Ginny Says:

      My sister got two degrees in journalism; I’m not an expert but I will observe that she complained at one point that a journalism degree (not unlike a M.B.A.) should be preceded by study in a discipline – and this tradition has been lost. Mastery of political science or science, engineering or history etc. makes for reporters with a stronger sense of proportion. Not only has that died out, our major television newscasters have remarkably limited educations. (Sure education isn’t necessary to understanding, but if it is any good it makes us know what we don’t know and have some humility.)

      Someone covering the Pope’s speechese who had some understanding of religious history might have made these reports less superficial if less dramatic.

    9. Liar Says:

      Well David, If you own a Ferrari, don’t take it to the Ford dealer for repairs and then complain when it doesn’t run right, or blame Ford Motor Co. for making sluggish cars.

      Libraries, newsstands and the Internet have brilliant, subtle and sophisticated analysis of what the Pope has to say from a variety of ideological perspectives right, left and center. If you look for it, you’ll find it. If you don’t, well, you won’t.

      True enough: if you pick up the Washington Times, or, God forbid, the New York Post, you are going to get reporting from the view of mainstream New Yorkers. It’s not likely you’ll find in-depth knowledge or analysis there, but that’s because those papers’ readers don’t want that kind of coverage. What’s wrong with that, when you have so many available periodicals that do?

      I get a sense from some of the more vehement critics of the mainstream media that what really bothers them is that the newspapers that disagree with their worldview are more popular and/or have a higher status than those with which they agree.

    10. david foster Says:

      Most people still get their information about the world from the MSM, and when this is biased, shallow, and/or inaccurate, the resulting reality-distortion field is harmful to the whole society. It’s not just a matter of personal preferences.

    11. GFK Says:

      Can we really blame this one on the MSM? Who completely missed the point first? The MSM or the Mullahs?

      I only remember hearing about it from the MSM after the Mullah’s were already PO’d. (I first heard about it on a blog, of course.)

    12. josh Says:

      I note a comment by Jonathon to a Sept 16 post entitled “Faith based Initiative Strike Back”:

      “Sulaiman, I think you are painting with a ridiculously broad and very sloppy brush here.”

      Unfortunately, that seems to be a theme of this blog, at least with respect to the religion of Islam and the ill-defined notion of the “MSM.”

      First, the “MSM,”: In spite of the ad hominem attacks, a sampling of the news reports on the subject of this post (IE, here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/09/15/pope.islam/index.html?section=cnn_topstories, quoting three paragraphs of the speech and providing a link to the full text — well before critics in the blogosphere did so) simply quoted great lengths of the Pope’s speech, and the subsequent reaction in parts of the Muslim world. Let me first state that I think those reactions are wrong, both morally (in terms of violent response) and factually (in terms of overreacting to academic/philosophical discussion).

      But criticisms such as this post do nothing but point out the fact that readers’ bias projects anger onto the messenger for simply reporting something the reader does not like. It is not “the media’s” job in the space of 14 inches, 24-point type, to set forth an analysis of a talk given by even the most erudite academic. The Pope certainly said these things, the portions quoted certainly being the most newsworthy (even if taken wrongly by parts of the Muslim world).

      It’s like the 60 Minutes interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Media bashers criticized the giving of forum, where any reasonable person watching the interview soon realized the derangement of the man, despite the newsworthiness of hearing him speak.

      So too, here, what the Pope said simply was newsworthy, and any reasonable reader should have seen that what he did say (and what was directly quoted by the “MSM” was simply a quotation from the Byzantine emperor.

      As to the Muslim world: I think it’s a rather giant, broad brush that I see being used on this blog to discuss a religion representing 1.2 billion worldwide in five continents. The glaring generalizations truly diminish what I think would be highly interesting discussion otherwise.

    13. josh Says:

      See also the comments of Aminah McCloud, professor of religious studies at DePaul University and director of the school’s Islamic World Studies program (who, I would assume, possesses more of the intellectual credentials sought for in some of the ad hominem in the comments ot this post):

      “‘…[The Pope] is doing that thing that we hope people never do, which is lump all Muslims in one basket by making sweeping general comments, to imply that those who follow Islam are unreasonable and therefore prone to violence,”‘McCloud said. ‘I think this did a lot of harm. I can’t say whether or not that harm is irreparable. But it did a great deal of harm.'”

      Indeed. Avoiding those broad brush strokes toward 1.2 billion people might be wise.

    14. josh Says:

      And, finally, note the lack of understanding exhibited by the ignorant MSM’er who quoted Rev. Donald Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, on the matter:

      “Rev. Donald Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said a thorough study of the pope’s entire speech finds that he was actually using the quote to explain certain reflections on the relationship between religion and rationality or faith and reason. At the end of the speech, he refers to the controversial quote again and says this is why we need dialogue and understanding.

      Senior also notes that in the original German text, Benedict refers to the quotation as ‘crude.’ To take the quote out of context from the entire message of the speech is to mischaracterize Benedict, Senior said.”

      So I guess the question becomes, was it the radicals who took the quote out of context or the “MSM?” Does this reporter fall out with his demonized fellow scribes for providing the context? Difficult questions, indeed.

    15. david foster Says:

      The only place Google News could find this passage was the Chicago Tribune. Obviously, there are differences between writers in terms of their perceptiveness and objectivity.

      And the headline–“Pope’s comments threaten dialogue”–didn’t strike me as very objective or responsible.

    16. Scotus Says:

      Lex,

      You may be right, but I hope you are not. The Pope, at least when he gave the speech, would have said you are wrong. I agree that the Muslims of today, either explicitly or by silent aquiessence, do believe their religion should be spread by the sword. The idea that this can change may be more vain hope than plausible belief. Still (perhaps recalling the rational glory of the Islamic past during the High Middle Ages)the Pope offered a hand in openess and friendship. So far, it has been slapped (if not shot and burned) away. Perhaps the best we in the West can do, when it comes to dialogue, is focus on the other aspect of the Pope’s speech, i.e. developing an understanding of reason that is open, and not hostile, to faith. For, if we are to win a clash of civilizations, we must face the Islamic world with a united front. Thus, the wisdom of your proposed Oriana Fallaci Society.

    17. Lex Says:

      I hope I am wrong, too. I read things, try to understand what is going on, and I sometimes do not like what I am finding. This is one of those times.

    18. josh Says:

      “I agree that the Muslims of today, either explicitly or by silent aquiessence, do believe their religion should be spread by the sword.”

      All 1.2 billion of them, huh? I guess my prior comments fell on deaf ears. Well, I guess one hears what one wants to hear.

    19. josh Says:

      And David Foster, whose anecdotal evidence trumps whose? That always seem to be the case with “MSM” bashing. If we talk about coverage of, say, the recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict, a few examples of photo staging serves as sufficient evidence to prove the media is biased. If I provide more links to news reports covering the full context of what the Pope (himself, no one else) said, would that serve to reach the same general conclusion?

      Let’s set some ground as what it takes to “prove” the media is or is not out to get us.

    20. Scotus Says:

      josh,

      Hearing what one wants to hear cuts many ways. It appears you fail to note the significance of my including by silent acquiescence. Im sure you will concede that many Muslims explicitly believe it is right, even a duty, to spread their faith by the sword. You seem to suggest (even believe) there are many (even most) Muslims who, in their hearts, dont believe this? Do these peaceful at heart Muslims protest against those who spread the faith by the sword? Do they brand those who wield the sword as heretics? Do they issues condemning fatwas and anathemas against them? From what I’ve observed, VERY few, if any, of these peaceful at heart Muslims do any of that. Also, from my observation, when Muslims really do believe some of their brethren are guilty of heresy, they are not exactly bashful when it comes to doing something about it, up to and including mass murder. Witness the massacres perpetrate by Sunnis against Shia and vice versa. (Of course, Im not suggesting that Muslims who use the sword to spread their faith should be massacred.) Qui tacit consentire videtur, josh. From where I sit, except for those Muslims saying outright that it is right to kill to advance Islam, all I hear on this issue from the Islamic world is deafening silence.

    21. Liar Says:

      As a practical matter, the only realistic hope the world has of neutralizing Islamic extremism lies with moderate Islam.

      Those who struggle to diminish, negate or nullify moderate Islam are in fact doing much to help the cause of Islamic extremism.

      Bernard Lewis, no apologist for Islam by any measure, makes the case cold in “The Crisis of Islam” that the primary struggle is within the religion itself, not between Islam and West, as some ideologues have labored so much to assert.

      Bin Laden asserts his is the true Islam of all 1.2 billion. Who’s agreeing with him?

    22. Scotus Says:

      Liar, perhaps the more apt question is Who’s diagreeing with him? I agree with Lewis, and, remember I said I hope Lex is wrong. Certainly, the Pope shares that hope and is trying to do somthing about it. Actually, so does President Bush. Indeed, moderate Islam is the linchpin of his Iraq policy. I must say, however, that, every day, “moderate Islam” seems more and more hypotheical.

    23. josh Says:

      Scotus

      I do not concede that “MANY Muslims explicitly believe it is right, even a duty, to spread their faith by the sword.” (emphasis mine) Neither of us have sufficient scientific data to make a statement generalizing half of the Muslim world plus one. When that is the case, with enormous numbers of people in such diverse settings as Dearborn, Michigan, Dubai City, and Indonesia, I would be relutant to make such generalizations. If one can (calmly) remove any notion of moral equivalence and just focus on the method of logic, it is no different than saying “Many Jews …” or “Many Catholics.”

      Can your argument truly be that the World’s Muslim leaders fail to condemn terrorism on a regular basis? I hope not, because a short google search shows the opposite: http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/010913/2001091349.html (Egypt condemning terrorism); http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=45991&d=31&m=5&y=2004 (Egypt, Syria (?!?), Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and others condemning terrorism); http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/011182.php (Powerline lauding Fiqh Council of North America’s July 2005 fatwa against terrorism, but lamenting the news came from CAIR spokesman).

      So, now, I guess, you will (perhaps reasonably) need to shift your argument. After every terrorist act in the world, leaders (some good, some bad) unfailingly make statements of condemnation. Often, the argument then becomes “Condemnation is not enough. We must have action.” That’s a reasonable opinion for people to take (although there’s enough nuance to it for other threads)

      I addressed only the words you wrote in your comment. I think the facts demonstrate more than enough “condemnation” of terrorism. I would argue that it is reasonable to want more from the Muslim world without defaming an entire religion.

    24. Lex Says:

      “I think the facts demonstrate more than enough ‘condemnation’ of terrorism.”

      It’s not working very well. So, maybe it is not more than enough. But the real problem is there is no authoritative voice in the Islamic world which is able to condemn terrorism.

      “many Muslims explicitly believe it is right, even a duty, to spread their faith by the sword.”

      This is only true to the extent they actually believe in the plain teaching of their religion, and the express teaching of the Koran, which says, inter alia, “Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them and seize them, confine them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush” (Surah 9:5) There are others of similar import. There is no equivalent command to wage war on non-believers in the Christian Gospels. Earlier Surahs in the Koran, which express a more peaceful attitude toward unbelievers are, by the Muslim’s own standards of interpretation, superseded by these later Surahs, which were written after Mohammad had failed to peacefully convert his Christian and Jewish neighbors and had embarked on his successful wars of conquest.

      You will find on the Net various explanations of this and similar verses, which downplays its apparent violent significance. There are several response. First, again, the Christian Gospels contain nothing like it, however it is construed. Second, some Muslims themselves use these and similar commands to justify violence, and there is no authority which is widely recognized within Islam to say they are wrong. Third, even if this and similar verses are only applicable to defensive war waged within certain legal bounds, the case has been made by various Muslims, including Mr. bin Laden, that, in fact, Islam is under attack on all sides by Western power, Western culture and Western corruption, and that violence in response is in fact defensive. And there is an element of truth to this type of assertion. A globalized economy and the depraved entertainment products which the USA exports via electronic media are, in fact, undermining Islamic practice and faith. Terrorism in response is not justifiable, so most Westerners would say, but I am not sure that a legitimate case cannot be made within Islamic thinking for a violent response. I’m not an expert.

      I have only recently started to try to educate myself on these subjects. However, the notion that Islam is, for example, even in principle, a “religion of peace”, is simply not supported by its own sacred documents or historical record. I wish I were reaching a different conclusion. But the more I read, the worse things actually look.

      If pointing these things out is “Muslim-bashing”, so be it.

    25. josh Says:

      “the Christian Gospels contain nothing like it.”

      Well, as I Jew I claim no authority in the Christian Gospels. But I am familiar with the Old Testament:

      “When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites … you shall not bow down to their gods … but utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces … Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land (Ex 23:23-33; see also Ex 32:25-29, where the sin of making the golden calf by the Israelites leads to the command: “Each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor”).

      But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them – the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites … – just as the Lord your God has commanded (Deut 20:16-17; see also Deut 7:2-16).

      And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city [Jericho]. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. … Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys (Joshua 6:16-21; cf. Heb 11:30-33, where a New Testament writer condones such passages in the Old Testament).

      Thus says the Lord of hosts, “… Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Sam 15:2-3). (Saul did not carry this command fully in that he spared some cattle as booty. For this action God rejected Saul as king of Israel (verses 8-9, 13-15, 26), and gave the kingdom to David, although even David killed only men and women in the conquered lands of other nations and spared the cattle, 1 Sam 27:8-9, cf. 2 Sam 8:2).

      They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male (Num 31:7).

      Biblical support for suicide murder? Try Judges 16:26-30: And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them … Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport … And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes … And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. SO THE DEAD WHICH HE SLEW AT HIS DEATH WERE MORE THAN THEY WHICH HE SLEW IN HIS LIFE. (emhpasis mine)

      It’s just a sampling. Maybe it’s the Jews and the Muslims who are co-religions of the sword (although I think Erik Rudolph and other American terrorists were Christian)

      I’m not certain how the complaint that the Pope’s speech, for example, was taken out of context squares with the taking of Koran passages out of context, but that’s a logic argument for another day.

      The fact that Islam has been misconstrued as a violent religion within itself, and the ongoing battle between those opposing forces is the essence of the global conflict today. There’s plenty in Islam’s sacred documents and historical record showing it as a religion of peace, and showing the disputed interpretations within the religion itself. You just have to read them.

    26. josh Says:

      Here, obivously, are some Catholics who have a rather more violent interpretation of scripture than others. Thankfully, reasonable minds will not use their acts to smear Catholicism in its entirety.

      http://www.asianews.it/view.php?l=en&art=7229

    27. josh Says:

      and Lex, do you really want to get into a debate about the “historical record” of violence promoted by one’s religion? It seems in that regard, Christianity loses (wins?)

    28. Scotus Says:

      josh,

      First of all, ‘many’ is NOT half plus one. ‘Many’ is a large proportion, but not necessary more than half. Second, I did not say there are no condemnations of terrorism. What I said is there are, as far as I know, very few condemnations of spreading Islam by the sword. As far has I can tell you provide no counter evidence to the claim I actually made. (Please, from now on, take better care to critique what people actually say instead of straw men of your own creation.) Third, as to the condemnations of terrorism, I agree with Lex that they have been totally ineffective and I also agree with him about why they have been ineffective, i.e. no truly authoritative voice in Islam that can speak to and for, with effect, the whole Islamic world, or even a significant portion of it. As to whether a moderate Islam that does condemn spreading its faith by the sword will eventually emerge, recalling the Islamic past, I continue to be hopeful, but, along with Lex, I continue to urge that we sharpen own own swords.

    29. Lex Says:

      Sure, Josh. Christianity “wins” hands down. It spread for centuries as an oppressed minority. Islam, from the beginning spread by conquest.

      So, you better revisit your history. But let’s concede for now, for the sake of argument, that in the past, the Christians were absolutely awful and even more awful than the Muslims. OK, let’s put that to one side.

      This leaves open the most relevant question, where the two religions — or really groupings or clusters of religions — are as of Anno Domini 2006?

      Let’s keep it simple. Within the roughly billion or so Christians and billion or so Muslims, which community has people who are more likely to use violence against nonbelievers? Which group has people who are more likely to advocate the use of violence against nonbelievers? Which group has people who are morelikely to offer justification for violence against nonbelievers? Then a further question: Does this have anything to do with their religious beliefs or not?

      My answers to the first three questions: The Muslims. My answer to the second question: Yes.

      Does this mean all or most Muslims participate in violent behavior? No. Does this mean that most Muslims are probably intimidated into silence by violent behavior. It seems so.

      The next question is: What do we do about it?

      The tentative answer seems to be: Find sc-called “moderate Muslims” and try to encourage and assist them in toning down the violent action and conduct.

    30. Mitch Says:

      Josh:
      Here are some articles quantifying Muslim opinions. Optimists and pessimists can both find support for there habits of thinking. They were not hard to find.

      Pew Global Attitudes Project Pew is pretty reliably liberal, so these results would not be expected to skew right. I note that the majority of Muslims surveyed think that Arabs did not commit the 9/11 attacks.

      Arab-Americans in Dearborn (not scientific)

    31. josh Says:

      “Please, from now on, take better care to critique what people actually say instead of straw men of your own creation.”

      If my definition of many was in error, I apologize. I hardly think it’s a straw man, but it’s not worth debating. I’m happy to critique your words, but I’m sorry, people don’t often admit to their errors. Often, meaning lies behind them, and I think it’s perfectly permissible to critique that. When one criticizes an entire religion practiced by 1.2 billion people worldwide, it seems that person is talking about far more than half plus one, even if those words are never utterred.

      “As far has I can tell you provide no counter evidence to the claim I actually made.”

      Not even sure how to respond to that. Condemnation of terrorism is not condemnation of the spread of Islam by sword? I guess that depends on what the definition of “is” is. I rarely hear Christians or Jews condemn isolated passages of the Old Testament that are not followed by the mainstream practitioners. If this debate is about the condemnation of one, isolated passage of the Koran, versus condemnation of the acts taken in its name which are the subject of our attentions these days, I’ll take myself out of it. Too many passages of Judeo-Christian text espouse violent behavior if taken out of context to for me to base an opinion on the entire world’s religions. When God tells Joshua or Sampson or Saul how to treat the enemy (non-believer), he does not emote compassion. That is my God. I don’t think that taints my entire religion or me personally.

      “I also agree with him about why they have been ineffective, i.e. no truly authoritative voice in Islam that can speak to and for, with effect, the whole Islamic world, or even a significant portion of it.”

      That seems more a criticism of the sorry state of Arab world leadership itself, rather than the merits of the religion practiced by some of its people.

    32. josh Says:

      Lex

      “Sure, Josh. Christianity “wins” hands down. It spread for centuries as an oppressed minority. Islam, from the beginning spread by conquest.”

      I will revisit my history. Nine million people killed in the Crusades from 600-1200 AD. (Robertson, History of Christianity: p168) Not sure that qualifies as “spreafd[ing] for centuries as an oppressed minority.

      “Let’s concede for now, for the sake of argument, that in the past, the Christians were absolutely awful and even more awful than the Muslims.”

      I don’t want to do that. That’s my point. I will not make rash generalizations about entire religions or the millions of disparate adherents. So no, let’s not concede that.

      I do not accept your question as to where the two religions are as of today. In support of your argument about Islam’s violent nature, you wrote, “the notion that Islam is, for example, even in principle, a “religion of peace”, is simply not supported by its own sacred documents or HISTORICAL RECORD.” (emphasis mine) If the historical record is what determines the merits of a particular religion, Christianity has a tainted past. I would not use that historical record to smear the entire religion, though.

      As to your question about current state of affairs, though, they’re entirely flawed from a factual perspective. “Which group?” That’s the whole point. You’re taking the actions of a relative few and attributing it to 1.2 billion people. Please provide factual support for the percentage of Al Qaeda to the 1.2 billion practicing Muslims. So as to the answer to your question: Neither. If you were to reword to “Which religion has a distinct minority that is more willing …” I would bend more in your favor. Even then, the number of Erik Rudolphs and Indonesian Catholics (see AsiaNews link in 10:56 comment above) using their Christian religion to justify violent compared to the total number of Chritsians would only differ from the same comparions to Muslims by a few millions of a percentage point.

      “Does this mean that most Muslims are probably intimidated into silence by violent behavior. It seems so.”

      That assertion is contradicted by the string of sites I listed above. I don’t consider those condemnations of terrorism to be intimidation into silence. Note, however, there is a difference between condemnation and effective condemnation. But those are separate issues.

      “The next question is: What do we do about it?

      The tentative answer seems to be: Find sc-called “moderate Muslims” and try to encourage and assist them in toning down the violent action and conduct.”

      To end, I could not agree with you more.

    33. Scotus Says:

      josh, red herrings, no matter how much verbage they contain, are no better than straw men (and you’ve still got a few of those, along with question begging, too boot).

    34. Sulaiman Says:

      Buchanan, the prennial presidential candidate of the religious right, was on TV two nights ago and proclaimed that “Holy Land was ours to begin with and we launched the Crusades to take it back.” [my mistake if I have not quoted him in his exact words]

      Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans do not listen to (or vote for) this kind of enlightened 2006 religious “tolerance/reason.” The non-Catholic politically organized religious groups in this country are no better than Buchanan. Furthermore, Buchanan justifies his opposition to free trade (and immigration) in a religious fervor the same way Ratzinger opposes Turkey’s entry into the EU. Unfortunately, Europeans oppose Turkey’s entry into the EU but fortunately not for the same reason as Ratzinger.

      If we learn anything from history is that religious dialogue did not pay off for the past 2000 years and it is highly unlikely to do so in our liftetime. In fact, factoring the limits/constrains of technology of mass murder over time, more blood has been spelled under the banner of religion than any other ideology. You really have to believe more or less in the same dogma to have a religious dialogue.

    35. Jonathan Says:

      Sulaiman, that is silly. Buchanan is a marginal figure, repudiated by both major parties and not representative of US religious conservatives. He was much more popular politically in the past when his stated views were more liberal.

      As for “more blood has been spelled under the banner of religion than any other ideology,” I think you will find that the vast part of the bloodshed of the recent past by caused by secular and pagan totalitarianism rather than in holy wars. Indeed one of the problems in the West right now is that many people, particularly members of the elites, have no intellectual or experiential framework for understanding religion or religious conflict, and therefore fail to appreciate the nature and magnitude of the threat posed to their societies by expansionist radical Islam.

    36. Sulaiman Says:

      Jonathan – Buchanan may be a marginal figure now but he gave Bush I a tough fight and a large segment of the Republican party happens to agree with, if not vote for, him. His views (ignorning the fact that most immigrants happen to be Catholics from Latin/South America but they speak the wrong language and have a different skin color) reflect the views/sentiments of religious right. In fact, I think Buchanan is a very eloquent spokesman for them. Can you point out to other public figures who speak for religious right? Jerry Falwell? 700 Club? Sure I think they should have the freedom of speech to spew bigotry around but as middle of the road Americans, we should not be exactly proud of these people.

      Second paragraph of your comment — you just confirmed my view: “bloodshed under banner of religion.” Secular totalitarian views (assuming that Marxism was not a religion of its own) have been defeated and no one, except a few lunatics in Syria, N Korea, and Cuba, believes their gospel anymore. Traditional religion, unchecked by secular power, continues to remain on the march.

    37. Lex Says:

      “Can you point out to other public figures who speak for religious right?”

      George W. Bush.

      That is who they voted for in the last two presidential elections, in very large numbers. Religious conservatives are the voters least likely to be dissatisfied with President Bush’s performance. (Can’t recall where I saw that … .) So, the true face of the Religious Right, to the extent there is such a thing, looks more like George W. than like Pat. The future face of religious conservatives is going to be … Lex predicts … Senator Sam Brownback.

      Plus, religious believers are all over the map in American politics. Don’t take it from me. See the article I cited to in this post.

    38. josh Says:

      Scotus

      “josh, red herrings, no matter how much verbage they contain, are no better than straw men (and you’ve still got a few of those, along with question begging, too boot).”

      that’s the second time you’ve criticized without arguing merits. Please find something I said, quote it back to me and argue it on the merits. Point out the red herring, and its verbage, that you disagree with. Or the straw men.

      I’m not sure how my last response to your post, which responded to your words and which I quoted above my responses, is a straw man, unless your name has changed to Ray Bolger.

      I never “set up a logical fallacy by misrepresenting [your argument].” I quoted the words out of your mouth (er, computer). Don’t blame me that you said what you said.

      First, you complained that Muslims don’t condemn. Then when pointed out they have (some, not all. I’m not engaging in the gross generalizations), you shift the argument to the ineffectiveness of their condemnations. I think the latter point is valid, but it is indeed a separate issue from your original words.

      I’m happy to continue this, but please address my arguments and don’t attack me with phrases like red herring or straw men unless you can support with things I have said.

    39. Anonymous Says:

      Lex,

      I will pass my judgment on Brownback once I get to know him better. Until then, he will remain just another politician — one whose goal number one is to get elected — in my judgment.

      GWB — I like him too and, thankfully, he has not been beating the drums of anti-abortion, ID, protectionism (steel aside), and anti-immigration. I don’t mind the fact that he is a religious man in his private life (I believe in freedom of choice) and I appreciate the fact that he does not make POLICY decisions based on his religious sentiments. I am not sure I can make the same judgment about Buchanan and other politicians of faith that are well known to the public.

    40. Sulaiman Says:

      josh – check out Scotus argument here.

    41. Scotus Says:

      Sulaiman, you write:

      “Second paragraph of your comment — you just confirmed my view: “bloodshed under banner of religion.” Secular totalitarian views (assuming that Marxism was not a religion of its own) have been defeated and no one, except a few lunatics in Syria, N Korea, and Cuba, believes their gospel anymore. Traditional religion, unchecked by secular power, continues to remain on the march.”

      Well, if this isn’t one of the best bait and switches I’ve seen in a long time. First, you concede that Jonathan has obliterated your original ludicrous claim that “more blood has been spelled under the banner of religion than any other ideology.” Second, you falsely claim as the view you originally expressed the idea that “[s]ecular totalitarian views (assuming that Marxism was not a religion of its own) have been defeated and no one, except a few lunatics in Syria, N Korea, and Cuba, believes their gospel anymore. Traditional religion, unchecked by secular power, continues to remain on the march.” Finally, you claim Jonathan’s obliteration of what you originally said “proves” what you are saying now, when a D level logic student knows perfectly well that it does nothing of the sort. How can the falsity of “More blood has been spelled under the banner of religion than any other ideology” prove the truth of “Traditional religion, unchecked by secular power, continues to remain on the march.” I’m afraid that the petulant 13 year old with a very bad case of teenage omniscience has returned.

      josh you write:

      “Nine million people killed in the Crusades from 600-1200 AD.” Well, I must say that really must have been a nice trick. So nice, in fact, it took me a while to tumble to its absurdity. First of all, Muhammad didnt begin preaching until AD 612. He was not invited to rule Medina until AD 620. He did not actually flee Mecca for Medina until AD 622. And, he did not conquer Mecca until AD 631. Whats more the Muslims, after the death of Muhammad, did not capture Jerusalem until AD 638, and the first Crusade to recapture it was not mounted until AD 1095, and the last Crusade to actually reach the Levant ended in AD 1191. (At least the end date is only off by nine years.)

      Also, about the nine million people killed. Think about that for a minute. If you are right, then the Crusades killed 2.5 million more people than the Thirty Years War (1618-1648; 6.5 million dead), which almost all historians consider the most bloody pre-20th Century War (mainly because the rise of modern science in the 17th Century led to the development of much more deadly weapons). I guess all those Crusaders must have been super Robin Hoods when it came to killing with long bows.

    42. Ginny Says:

      Buchanan has done so well with Republicans & conservatives that he now fits into panels with Huffington.

      Some of this discussion seems a bit silly. In the name of Allah, a nun is killed. In the name of reason, a Pope reaches out for a dialogue. So our site is described as Muslim bashing because we notice the difference. What struck me about the Pope’s speech was its emphasis not only upon reason – though that was clearly the focus – but also the fact that with reason, a man’s faith is determined by an internal acceptance. The internalization, the self-consciousness that we can trace through the last couple of thousand years, the self-consciousness that produces self-examination, guilt, an awareness of others’ separate selves (rending ourselves from others as well as from our God by our human & sinful nature, unified with others through grace & love) – all these are what we can be thankful for that interweaving of Greek & Christian traditions.

    43. Jonathan Says:

      Sulaiman, you are slipping into sophistry with your response to my point about totalitarianism vs. religion. Scotus is right about that. The point, again, is that the overwhelming majority of recent mass-slaughters were not perpetrated by traditional religions, and that partly as a result many members of our poorly educated elites lack the intellectual depth to understand the threat posed by radical Islam.

      You are way off WRT Buchanan. I myself voted for him in the ’92 Illinois Republican primary as a protest against Bush Sr.’s ineptitude. But there is no way I would ever consider voting for him now; he has changed his position too much. He was initially a conventionally conservative Republican. Then he ran in ’92 as essentially a libertarian who was skeptical about international trade agreements and the Gulf War. Then he left the Republican Party and ran as a straightforwardly anti-free trade populist. Now he’s a marginal figure, generally disliked by Republicans, hostile to US foreign policy, vaguely sympathetic to America’s enemies, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, unpopular. He is a shadow of his former self and his current marginal public status reflects that fact. It is simply false to say that he represents most religious conservatives. If he were really popular with such people he would not today be a political has-been.

    44. josh Says:

      scotus

      I did not say 9 million “muslims” were killed by the crusades. I said “people.” The first victims/infidels were Jews, I believe. But setting aside the timeline, is the argument that Christianity did not start of as an oppressed or peace loving religion countered?

      Please read my original comment before calling it “absurd.”

    45. josh Says:

      Jonathon

      Patrick Buchanan’s anti-semitic rants were well know before you voted for him in ’92 (not say YOU knew about them, but they were widely known, noetheless). He didn’t magically become an anti-semite when he started disagreeing with neoconservative ideals:

      In a March 17, 1990 column, he wrote that diesel engines, the exhaust from which was used in the Treblinka gas chambers, “do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody. … Demanjuk’s weapon of mass murder cannot kill.”

      In 1990, Buchanan referred to Capitol Hill as “Israeli-occupied territory.”
      (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 10/20/90)

      Same year: During the Gulf crisis: “There are only two groups that are beating
      the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli defense ministry and
      its ‘amen corner’ in the United States.” (“McLaughlin Group,” 8/26/90)

      He descrbied Hitlser thus: “”an individual of great courage…Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”

      he also pushed Reagan to visit Germany’s Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried. At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that they were “Americans first” — and repeatedly scrawled the phrase “Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews” in his notebook. Buchanan was
      credited with crafting Ronald Reagan’s line that the SS troops buried at Bitburg were “victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.” (New York Times, 5/16/85; New Republic, 1/22/96)

    46. josh Says:

      Ginny

      “In the name of Allah, a nun is killed. In the name of reason, a Pope reaches out for a dialogue. So our site is described as Muslim bashing because we notice the difference.”

      In the name of Christianity, Eric Rudolph bombed the 96 Olympics and several gay bars in Atlanta. Because you don’t prescribe his irrational acts to all of Christianity (or similar acts by any number of other Christians), but do the opposite for the acts of some of the world’s muslims, your site is described as Muslim bashing.

      As soon as I see a comment condemning the Catholic terrorist intent to “massacre of 200 Muslims in Poso during inter-faith clashes in 2000,” I’ll take “hypocritical” off the list as well.

      Really, I’m done. While I consider Lex a very good friend, and often sheepishly laugh off his glaring generalizations of all different types of people, religions, genders, whatnot, I find the branding of 1.2 billion people (and/or their religion) morally and intellectually weak.

      I defer the last word and sign off.

    47. Scotus Says:

      josh,

      What is countered is your claim that the Crusades killed 9 million people. The term ‘Crusades,’ in standard English, refers to the Christian effort to retake the Holy Land by force from the MUSLIMS. If you are using it in some non-standard way, it is sloppy writing not to say so explicitly. Also, you cannot set the timeline aside, since it shows, once more, the sloppiness of your writing, dare I say your thought. Finally, if you are claiming that the Christians mounted a “crusade” to wipe out the Jews before they mounted one to wipe out the Muslims, then that’s the most absurd claim of all. Please provide ONE COMPLETE citation to a reputable source that maintains this.

    48. Jonathan Says:

      Josh,

      Buchanan has become worse, or at least less guarded, over the years WRT Jews. He has also become more extreme in other areas such as international trade. It is easy to forget now, but in the 1980s and early 1990s he looked like a principled libertarian-conservative Republican who happened to be hostile to Israel and naive about some economic issues. Some people called him an anti-Semite but there wasn’t a consensus on that point as there is now. He has changed much since then, as the commenter who pointed out that he now allies himself with leftists made clear. Anyway, you missed the main point, which is that he does not currently represent more than a small fraction of religious-conservative opinion in this country. Otherwise he would have been done better in elections. Are you now going to tell us that he really was elected?

      As for Rudolph and other Christian terrorists, how many people have they killed lately? Rudolph murdered two people — bad enough but not even remotely comparable to what Muslim terrorists have been doing over the past thirty-odd years. There are no millions of strident Christian fanatics ullulating in delight at the exploits of Christian bombers.

      The problem with your arguments is that you are ardent in pursuit of other commenters’ small errors but miss the big picture. Nobody is worried about Christian, Jewish or Buddhist terrorists (and few worry about Hindu ones). Everyone worries about Muslim terrorists, and should. This is the central fact.

    49. Scotus Says:

      Jonathan wrote to josh:

      The problem with your arguments is that you are ardent in pursuit of other commenters’ small errors but miss the big picture. Nobody is worried about Christian, Jewish or Buddhist terrorists (and few worry about Hindu ones). Everyone worries about Muslim terrorists, and should. This is the central fact.

      I say: HEAR, HEAR! Josh, there is a name for the logical fallacy Jonathan identifies. Its called pursuing red herrings.

      I simply cant resist, though I know it is futile to try to show you the errors of your ways, commenting on your most egregious red herring in this thread. Lex stated that, unlike in the Koran, nowhere in the Gospels can one find any admonition to use the sword to spread the faith. You responded to him by providing extensive quotes from the Old Testament. (BTW, in my experience, this is a term never used by an observant Jew. Indeed it is thought offensive, but I digress.) If this is not a red herring I dont know what in heck is! (You do mention one New Testament passage, Hebrews 11:30-33, but, not surprisingly, you straw man it.)

      Also, all the passages you quote either refer to conquest of the Promised Land after the Exodus or to the, more or less, defensive wars of King David. It is one (no doubt disturbing) thing to believe God has authorized you to use the methods described in the passages you quote to subdue and defend the one relatively small country you believe God has given to you. It is something else indeed to believe God has authorized you to use these methods to force the WHOLE WORLD to convert to your faith. As the passages from the Koran referred to by Lex and the polls referred to by Mitch indicate, it is clearly part of present day mainstream Islamic thought to believe the latter. Also, can you cite ONE credible post-Diaspora Jewish source that claims it is acceptable to use the methods described in the passages you quote either to reestablish or defend Israel. Certainly, since the founding of their state, (aberrations such as Sabra and Shatilla aside), modern Israelis have not used these methods. One can, however, point to many instances of modern Muslims using these methods, often against other Muslims.

      Frankly, Josh, I dont know why Ive taken the time Ive taken to try to show you the errors of your ways. From now on I shall resist commenting at all when you post some absurd claim or limit myself to summary judgments, for I believe they will have no less effect than careful refutation.

    50. Lex Says:

      “Taken out of context …”, “Old Testament…”

      If something means something different if it is “taken out of context”, then you shouldn’t do it. The passage I cited from the Koran, from what I have been able to discern have been used by Muslims to justify violence against non-believers. Over 1,300 years it is apparent that lots of views have been expressed about this question. Unfortunately, this language is ready to hand for those who want to use it.

      Josh, I said “gospel” for a reason. Of course the Old Testament is full of such things. It is noteworthy that Catholic interpretation, as I understand it, is to say that such things are now superseded by Jesus’s command to love one’s neighbor. It is noteworthy that during the Reformation era, various sects who wanted to wage warfare on their neighbors would seize on such Old Testament language. However, it is much more of a stretch to build a text-based case such conduct in Christianity.

      Again, I’m not an expert, but I think this is pretty clear from the holy books of the two faiths. I’ll leave the Jewish interpretation of any of this alone as I really know nothing about it.

      Bottom line as I see it. I really am not interested in Muslim theology. If I could have lived my whole life and never thought about it, I’d have been fine with that. My only interest in it is trying to understand a particular threat which exists to the United States. Yes, of course, hundreds of millions of Muslims are lovely people who would not hurt a fly. Thank God for that. But the ones who are a problem claim to be Muslims, assert text-based arguments for their behavior, and seem to be successful and gaining followers.

      One argument is “these terrorists have hijacked a great religion, which is a religion of peace.” As I have looked at this, I find this very optimistic assertion to be less well-founded than I’d like. In fact, I find that there is a pretty high degree of religious warrant for violence in Islam.

      This suggests that the hoped-for “moderates” are going to be more scarce than many of us are hoping. It also suggests that it is going to be tougher to condemn the people who are the enemies of the USA as “bad Muslims”, since they seem to have a decent case for their behavior. I certainly don’t think many Muslims are going to think President Bush is a very convincing authority on what does and does not constitute proper Islamic practice.