Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On being offensive

Or: why the Pope should not say sorry.

As an evangelical, fundamentalist humanist anti-theist, I tiptoe into this debate as if walking on eggshells. But then, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

And until I can think of another eggy metaphor I will get on with the point.

Pope Benedict has apologized for the offense he has caused some Muslims by his remarks last week in a lecture about “Faith and Reason’.

But why should the leader of the Catholic Church apologise for saying things he believes in? He is a Catholic. If he agreed with Muslims then he would be a Muslim. There is a fundamental doctrinal incompatibility between the two faiths. That’s why they are two different faiths.

Many though are seeing the Muslim outrage as part of Islam’s unique view of itself as a ‘Super Victim’. But maybe it is we in the West, with our wet liberal relativism and multiculturalism who have created a cultural climate where everyone feels the right to scream for an apology when they find something ‘offensive’(see here here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here).

Mick Hume in Spiked writes:

This bizarre ruckus over the words of a medieval monarch has turned into a revealing picture of the modern world. A world in which nobody, not even the leader of a major faith, is allowed to express a strong opinion without risking condemnation and demands for an apology. A world dominated by a victim mentality, in which groups with hyper-sensitive ‘outrage antennae’ are always on the lookout for the chance to claim that they have been offended, insulted or oppressed by the words of others.

Pope Benedict thinks that the moral relativism abound in the West is a bad thing. I, as an evangelical, fundamentalist humanist anti-theist, agree with him, though we would disagree profoundly about the relationship between ‘Faith and Reason’ – which to me are mutually exclusive terms.

But the Pope should not have to apologise simply because he is being a Catholic. If people don’t like what he says – I don’t like what he says – then tough. We can either engage with his remarks or ignore them. But don’t be mistaken, either, for thinking that it is only Muslims who have the Super Victim mentality.

The Pope making Catholic remarks is like a hen laying eggs – it’s just what they do best (ah, another egg metaphor!).


beatroot said...

Eggs" Benedict

You got the joke! First prize to you, my man!!!

Anonymous said...

What was the point that P. Benny was actually trying to make?

Was he endorsing the idea of a war of faiths or clash of civilizations as some western ideologues (left and right) argue?

I think not. In fact, I've come to the conclusion (at least for now) after reading an article by Matthew Krell who actually read the Pope's entire address (hint, hint) that the Pope was making an altogether different point.

Krell argues that the Pope was actually stressing the need for interfaith dialogue and that Islam is more ready for it than the West which tends to elevate reason entirely above and apart from faith.

Krell’s analysis and the Pope’s address are a lot denser than what was taken entirely out of context by the western media and blown up to make it look like the Pope was supporting the 14th century Byzantine Emperor he quoted and criticized (obviously not directly enough for the culture war vultures of either left or right persuasion).

Just to make it clear, this was a discussion between Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus (who ruled from Constaninople) and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam probably in 1391 right before the Muslim siege of the Constantinople between 1394 and 1402.

Krell points out: “In quoting him Manuel, the Pope knew full well that this was a deeply flawed conversation; he characterized
Manuel’s speech as "startlingly brusque," which is just diplomacy-speak for "incredibly rude." What is crucial to understand is that the Pope chose this conversation not because of Manuel’s flawed and bigoted view of Islam, but precisely because --however flawed -- it was a conversation. The Pope chose to comment on an ancient conversation between West and East precisely because the modern West, in his estimation, has lost the ability even to carry on this kind of conversation.”

Seems to me that what has transpired in the western media has borne out the Pope’s point. We’ll see what happens vis-à-vis Christian-Muslim dialogue.

And I don’t think this is so much an issue of free speech especially because as Krell concludes, perhaps much to the consternation of evangelical fundamentalist anti-theists: “A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

Anyway, if anybody wants to read in entirety what the pope actually said instead of just racheting up the hype and ideological warfare, see:

And Krell’s analysis can be found at:

Anonymous said...

There’s a problem with infallibility, you never look for mistakes in your own work. Let’s face it Benny just doesn’t hold a candle to JP II; he was likely trying to make a point and screwed it up beyond recognition. This is a lack of understanding the current state of relations between Christians and Muslims also the workings of global mass media, doesn’t speak well of Benny’s suitability to the job.

This doesn’t bode well when the other folks are looking closely at you because of past remarks. A touchy Muslim public with long running sense of victimization doesn’t need a lot to get them going (particularly if they see an edited translation possibly at variance actual text).

One can not debate religion as each side has its position defined by GOD, the more down to earth requirement of getting along can always be talked about. Now this brings me back to JP II, he seemed to have a talent for this kind of inter faith discussion. It didn’t seem he was wiping dung of the Popemobile windshield too often.

Hiring the understudy isn’t always the best move.

Perhaps since it’s going to be a while before the Muslims are going to want to talk to him, he can work on his dialogue with people in the third world. You know the place where their not suppose to use condoms and practice artificial birth control. So now when you produce ten children and the whole family is unable to feed itself and your starving to death, you have a way out…….. dying of Aids.

Perhaps the Vatican keeps statistics on their Website i.e. the body count.

This blog is about Poland!

It seems to me there is no shortage of pre-marital sex in Poland, the condom business is doing quiet well and the family size is smaller. The number of miscarriages in the population increased by the exact number of legal abortion that took place prior to the law on abortion being changed…..surprise!

The conclusion we can draw is that Poles have it figured out; you don’t have to be stupid to be a pious Catholic.

Good thing I’m a Polish Catholic, it helps you see through the bullshit.

beatroot said...

The Pope chose to comment on an ancient conversation between West and East precisely because the modern West, in his estimation, has lost the ability even to carry on this kind of conversation.

Absolutely fascinating what you wrote Ignacy. Much better than mine! But do you not think he was a little naive in choosing a quote that mentioned violence and Islam? Given – and I hope you see my point – the obsession with being ‘offended’; the self flagellation of being offended that many groups seem to enjoy so much these days? And I think it would be naive to expect remarks taken completely out of context – as Benny’s have – to meet with reason. I am afraid significant Muslims (and everyone else to a degree) don’t ‘do’ reason anymore. Look at Satanic Verses.

Jannovak57 (are there 57 Jan Novaks?)
Benny just doesn’t hold a candle to JP II; he was likely trying to make a point and screwed it up beyond recognition.

As Ignacy has shown, his point was probably a very subtle one, elegantly made. It was made in the context of an academic lecture…which is where P Benny (sounds like P Diddy!) feels most comfortable. What he did screw up is by expecting everyone to see those subtleties.

And JP II was the superstar Pope. Benny never was a Pole, Solidarity, gets shot, brings down communism, national symbol etc. It’s not right to compare them. JP II was a historical figure. Benny ain’t.

perhaps much to the consternation of evangelical fundamentalist anti-theists: “A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

No, evangelical fundamentalist humanist anti-theists. Can you tell me exactly how this ‘inter faith’ dialogue looks like? Are there going to be some fundamental compromises?

Christian: Hey, my Muslim brother. If you say Christ was the son of God, we’ll admit that Mohammed was almost as a big a cheese!

Muslim: OK, dude…in that case you have to say that we can all have three wives!

Gustav said...

Really great comment ignacy. And thanks for the link to the speech.

J57, it doesn't matter how sensitive they are - it might not have been a good idea to use those words, but sensitivity does not give anyone the right to go out and riot and murder innocent nuns, etc.

You know, what worries, me - and what I've had several conversations about - is where are the moderate muslim voices in all of this? I know they exist - I grew up and went to school with a significant number of them. Sure, I've seen an educated Imam here or there condemn terrorism, but the (massive majority) moderate Muslim community is deafeningly silent.

When was the last time you saw a sit -in or public disobedience by angry Muslims?

Homosexuals are offended by powerful Catholic politicians in this country, and they're not murdering nuns. BR and I took part in an equality march this summer which was extremely peaceful (at least on the side of those marching). Wouldn't Muslims have made a better point with peaceful demonstrations? Doesn't the worldwide Muslim community see that a lot more people would sympathize with them if they did so?

Maybe I'm being naive. After all, most of the violence occurred in oppressive, politically dysfunctional countries. You didn't here about anybody burning the Pope's effigy in Dearborn, Michigan, did you? (Was there any significant protests in the UK BR?)

beatroot said...

Wouldn't Muslims have made a better point with peaceful demonstrations?

They do take part in peaceful demonstrations. Most of the nutty burning of rag dolls and ranting you see is for the cameras (I have many stories about how crowds – especially in the middle east – completely change when a camera is there…and we draw the most ridiculous ideas from them.

In the west, in London, they take part in demonstrations. But they are not particularly what Gustav would call ‘moderate’. They march with nice white middle class ladies with banners saying ‘We are all Hezbollah now’ and that kind of nonsense.

But Gustav’s point touches on the truth. Politics with a capital P is not seen as an option by Muslims. And in that they are following everyone else. Normal political routes to change are seen as irrelevant now. So, ranting and terrorism is all that is left.

Anonymous said...

See what confusion is created by quoting somebody? Thanks for the praise BR but I was mostly quoting Matthew Krell who posted his stuff on both the Street Prophets and Daily Kos blogs (see his Daily Kos "diary" for quite a few excellent and some rather dumb comments as well). And to make matters more confusing, it was P. Benny who wrote the bit about "the divine." He was quoted by Krell and I mistakenly attributed the quote to the latter.

So yea, P. Diddy prolly should have known better but then again he is the type of guy ensconced (sp?) and insulated in his own little world of scholasticism and the Vatican. Thing is: the Western media jumped on what he said, distorted it, and ran with it like... you can finish the analogy. I'm getting spent.

Sorry I forgot the "humanist" element.

I dunno what the Catholic - Islamic discourse looks like at the Vatican level but I know that in the US there are many such initiatives in which Catholic bishops, clergy and laity participate in conversations with various representatives of different Islamic groups in cities all over the country. I've been involved in one of these and it was a wonderful experience. To begin with I can tell you that Muslim hospitality in an incredible thing to behold and from which to benefit. In the context of the US, in the discussion in which I was involved, their tantamount concern seemed to be how they could keep their kids from completely assimilating and being lost to the dominant secular culture. Go figure.

Agnes said...

"most of the violence occurred in oppressive, politically dysfunctional countries" - that tells the story, doesn't it: why would (or do) they demonstratefor this and not their real needs?

beatroot said...

I can tell you that Muslim hospitality in an incredible thing to behold

Listen – I have been in as many middle eastern countries as I have European. Including Israel for six months. And what is fantastic about these places is the hospitality. They have a completely different idea about what a ‘guest’ is from us. It’s overwhelming and charming. And although it’s a bit strange there sometimes – the only way to meet women, for instance, is to get invited back home by her brother (Lebanon and Israel excluded) – I absolutely love that part of the world. Morocco is the best. Those people are gorgeous.

why would (or do) they demonstrate for this and not their real needs?

That is exactly the right question. Since the old Arab nationalist politics (secular) has gone there is simply nothing else but religion. Another downside in the global death of Politics.

Gustav said...

It was me, not BR, who told you it was a great comment. And I know you were quoting - but my praise was to the point that you brought up the point.

But now that I know you got that stuff from Kos, I just might have to reconsider ;-)

beatroot said...

It was me, not BR, who told you it was a great comment.

Gustav, you naughty pussy, you have not been reading my comments! No bowl of cream for you, my whiskered little friend. In fact, my compliment was bigger than your compliment. So there.

Kos is a bit suspect.

Gustav said...

I never pay any attention to what you say anyway br.

That's what I get for blogging at work. My profuse appologies.

Can I have my milk now?

Frank Partisan said...

The Pope's speech was nonsense, about faith and reason, not being a contradiction. Still nothing to warrant an apology to Islamists.

The Islamists destroyed papal infalliability. He might as well step down as Pope.

During the turmoil over the Danish cartoons, he sided with the Islamists, as victims of religious hate. No gratefulness in this world anymore.

beatroot said...

It’s true, Ren, the Pope sided with Muslims over the cartoon nonsense. I think religious people think that FAITH is different from any other belief. Therefore it must be protected from mockery. But if faith is so special then believers should be a little more secure in their beliefs and not worry when someone mocks them.

Gutav - Miawwwww

roman said...

Thanks for that travel recommendation, steppx. I can hardly wait to go there and have a few cold pints while enjoying the 116 degrees in the shade. Er.. no alcohol? Never mind.


I agree that no apology was necessary. There really was nothing to apologize for. Freedom of speech and expression is universal and not relegated to just the speech we agree with. It applies to all who believe they are free.
The Pope's effort at creating dialogue between Christians and Muslims has been hi-jacked. Just the same way that terror groups such as Al Qeada's ultimate goal is to sow the seeds of political chaos, there are forces at work to create religious and cultural chaos and strife. It is being played out with the terrorist groups' greatest weapon, the free press. Pope Benedict and his aides are scratching their heads in puzzlement the same way the Bush administration has been doing for years. How does a speech intended to restart the line of communication, so seemingly effortlessly established by his predecessor, be so badly misinterpreted? It is hard to tell whether this is a planned effort by disparate groups or just a happenstance that evolved purely by chance. If I was more of a conspiracy buff, I could run wild with this one. It matters not though, the important thing is that it works to the extremists' benefit. It seems to me that once again those few knee-jerk groups of reactionary fundamentalist Muslims scattered in the ME and Indonesia are the same ones so profoundly insulted in the cartoon fiasco. It's as if they were just waiting for any excuse to riot and to be recorded doing so. Ok, get out the effigy to burn. Who will it be this time? Bush, Blair.. the Pope? Here was another chance to be insulted and to be outraged even if it was by an out-of-context interpretation in a speech intended for positive dialogue. Are we to think that those that are outraged are that ignorant? These states of emotion are becoming rather commonplace among these groups. The curious part in all this is that there seems to always be a cadre of eager Al Jazeera (or such) reporters around to pronounce these emotions in such a way as to magnify the furor many times over for public consumption. Our press follows lock-step because that is what they do and they do it well.
Like the taking over of airliners and flying them into buildings ploy, it's a one time only deal. Already, the rest of the world is growing tired of these child-like tantrums and will direct their attention elsewhere, thus, hopefully, ending this latest attempt by extremists at creating chaos and division and thus derailing another push for division between east and west.

beatroot said...

multi culti masturbation is one thing….

By definition, Step, it must be several things! And it sounds very interesting!!!

You ask for tolerance and that is exactly what I am arguing for. A genuine tolerance of what others are saying and not knee jerk reactions and calls for apologies and bans. But genuine tolerance requires utter confidence in one’s own values…and that is NOT what we have in the west anymore.

Roman – the controversy about the Pope’s remark’s started IN THE WEST…just as the Danish cartoons thing started in the west…it took a few days to get exported to the middle east etc where wild demonstrations were put on for the benefit of the western media. Note all the placards in English. It’s the west and its lack of confidence in its own basic values that opens up successive and calls for apologies. And ny apologizing we just open ourselves to more calls for apologies.

The Pope shoulld not apologise just as anyone who criticizes or mocks the catholic church should not apologise.

Lucia Maria said...

The Pope hasn't apologised for what he said, he's apologised for any offense the Muslims may have felt as a result of what he's said.

I read somewhere that the word "dialogue" is code in Vatican speak for access to the people in Muslim countries to allow those people the chance to convert.

The speech was really more to us in the West about our disconnection from Christianity and what we might find in it if we really looked, rather than being something that was intended to provoke the Muslims.

And look what the speech has done - it has got the West's attention. People who have never ever read anything written by any pope are reading it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the litany of far left ideological scripture, Steppx.

From actually reading them, I learned among other things that Jesus espoused "the execution of rebellious children." Now, I am truly enlightened.

Here's just one other example of the ideological reflexology contained therein:

"But the real case for the prosecution rests on his invitation to Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci to visit him last September.

Her next-to-last book, which presumably inspired the pope's invitation, was "The Force of Reason," which argued that the West is rational and reasonable, whereas Muslims aren't. And there was Benedict in Germany last week, saying exactly the same thing. What a coincidence."

--->>> I really don't know what inspired the Pope's invitation and neither does the article's author. I have read, however, that the Pope for whatever reason was friendly or at least conversant with atheist Fallaci long before her turn towards Muslim bashing.

So be careful that you don't meet or converse with anybody like Lucyna or Sonia lest you be associated with their views for evermore.

But then again, I spoze P. Benny got his just desserts for being tolerant of and willing to accomodate Fallaci's atheism let alone her history as a leftist.

And again, what the Pope was promulgating in his address was the opposite of the Byzantine emperor he quoted. I think that any reasonably intelligent college freshman who might take the time to read the address can get that much out of it.

Actually, what pisses me off the most about this whole affair is that I felt obligated and spent time reading his address. It gave me a headache. Whereas the links you provided at least gave me a few good laughs.

Contortionism? The only contortionism I see is on the part of the ideologues of both left and right who both want to foment strife and discord above all else. So much for reason.

Anonymous said...

Here's a letter from Oriana Fallaci to the Pope after the 7/7 London bombings (btw, whe earlier on blasted JP@ for being "weak" vs. Islam):

"When Pope Ratzinger renewed the theme of dialogue, I was astonished. Your Holiness, I speak to you as a person who admires you very much. Who loves you, because you are right about so many things. Who, because of this, is mocked along with those nicknamed “devout atheist,“ “sanctimonious layperson,“ “clerical liberal.“ A person, above all, who understands politics and its necessities. Who understands the drama of leadership and its compromises. Who admires the stubbornness of faith and respects the renouncements and generosity that it demands. But I must pose the following question all the same: do you really believe that the Muslims would accept a dialogue with Christians, or with other religions, or with atheists like me? Do you really believe that they can change, reform, quit planting bombs? You are a very erudite man, Your Holiness. Very cultured. And you know them well. Much better than I. Explain to me then: When ever, in the course of their history–a history that has lasted for 1400 years–have they changed and reformed?

Oh, neither have we been, nor are we, angels. Agreed. Inquisitions, defenestrations, executions, wars, infamies of every kind; as well as Guelphs and Ghibellines without end. And if we want to judge ourselves severely, it’s enough to think about what we did sixty years ago with the Holocaust. But afterwards, we applied a little wisdom, of course. We thought about what we had done and if for no other reason than in the name of decency, we bettered ourselves a little. They have not. The Catholic Church experienced epochal changes, Your Holiness. And again, you know this better than I. At a certain point, it is remembered that the Church was preaching reason; thus choice; thus the Good, thus Liberty, and she ceased to tyrannize. To kill people. Or constrain them to paint only Christs and Madonnas. She understood laicism. Thanks to men of the first order, a long list of which You are a part, she leant a hand to democracy. And today, she speaks to people like me. She accepts them and, far from burning them alive (I never forget that up until four hundred years ago the Holy Office would have sent me to the stake), she respects their ideas. They do not. Therefore, there can be no dialogue with them. And this does not signify that I want to promote a war of religion, a Crusade…

----->>> Maybe he met with her to talk some sense to her or shut her up. He obviously was not convinced by her that there can be no dialogue.

beatroot said...

Dialogue about what? If someone thinks black is white and someone else thinks black is black then what can they comprimnise about? That black is actually black with white spots?

Anonymous said...


I can and do accept that a majority of people interepret these remarks differently than me -- because for the most part they are content to watch the Daily Show or the Colbert Report (which I do religiously and much enjoy), or the NYT or other mainline media (from my perspective sadly including Common Dreams, Counterpunch, etc. when it comes to matters involving the Church).

As I wrote before, I think P. Benny lives in his own little scholastic world and just ain't half the statesman JP2 was. Yes, I think he's a media naif. Yes, I even think his selection of that particular quote was dumb.

If you quote Lucyna or Sonia,does that mean that you mean what either of them said? That's what it seems like you think when you write "he meant the opposite of what he said."

I'm not sure what you mean when you refer to his recently insulting Jews. If you are referring to his remarks at Auschwitz, I was very disappointed in them to say the least. I'm not so sure I'd say, however, that he insulted Jews.

Would you say that you are insulting him? Would "most Catholics" think that you are insulting him and them?

Anonymous said...

If anybody is the least beatroot interested in the seemingly dead horse of faith and reason anymore, or even so much as in the issue of Muslim-Christian dialogue, there's a really good article methinks in the most recent of The Tablet, liberal RC publication out of GB:

Anonymous said...

Steppx: I hope we can agree that there are bigger fish to fry.

I actually found your most recent cited source to be much more substantive than the Common Dreams and Counterpunch stuff. It also brought back memories of my more @ daze when I'd sit around a bar with Trots, Maoists and CPers singing songs with lyrics sung to the Mickey Mouse theme song like: "Now's the time for all of us to join the Red Army... M-A-O T-S-E DASH T-U-N-G, People's War, uh-uh-uh (forgot the line), Forever May We Wave Our Red Books High, High, High, High.... and or the Darling Clementine tune w/ the lyrics "Hotsy Trotsky was a Nazi in the days of '39...." then something about that ice pick. Hope I'm not being too sacrireligious here.

But back to the article: Too much hyperbole for me and again, this just ain't factual: "Even if the Pope now maintains he was only quoting from a medieval text while not associating himself with its contents, the fact is that during his entire speech he never sought to distance himself from the content of this quotation."

He did disassociate himself from it in the address, perhaps not enough so, but he has also gone out of his way to disassociate himself from the quote ever since.

Please take the time to read The Tablet piece I linked above. It's critical of P. Benny but points out that his clumsiness (and I do think that's what it amounts to althought there certainly are many other debatable points in his address -- many of which both the Tablet article and the 4th Internationale article address).

What perplexes me a lot, though, about the secular left dese daze is why it (yea, I know it's not monolithic like the Church... haw, haw) constantly finds fault with the medievalism of the Catholic Church but with everything comparable in Islam, writers go out of their way to justify or at least defend.

And yes, he disagrees with and even misinterprets Islam and Muslims, but I don't think this makes him anti-Muslim.

I'm glad you're not thin-skinned. I do appreciate the encounters.

beatroot said...

I'm glad you're not thin-skinned. I do appreciate the encounters.

That is an important thing to say. It is possible to be very robust in debating without getting personal. If you look at many other blogs the comments section is just full of personal insults, which I don’t see the point of. The point of debating these things is that it, in the end, both sides learn something. I learnt loads from the P Diddy Benny thing, for instance. We have shed a little more light on this than most of what I have seen in MSM – where all we get is bleating from different groups that they are being victimized. Which brings me back to my original point.

Anonymous said...

God, I hate politrix. This will prolly be lost in the mayhem but for my two zlots, apologies are sometimes necessary. I am glad JP2 made the apologies he did on behalf of the Church.