September 19, 2006

Christopher Hitchens weighs in on the Pope.

He's not a fan.

76 comments:

Freder Frederson said...

I just can't wait for all of you to rise up and defend Hitchens, especially after all the flak I received for calling him a drunk the other day.

Freder Frederson said...

I saw him on C-Span at some panel discussion last night where his parting shot was against the Pope--a more succint and vicious version of this column. He actually looked sober. It was probably taped before lunch.

Goesh said...

-the West simply can't handle offended muslims. Look at poor Solmon Rushdie on the lam, scurrying about, slinking, what with a death fatwa still hanging over his balding pate.

Freeman Hunt said...

I just can't wait for all of you to rise up and defend Hitchens, especially after all the flak I received for calling him a drunk the other day.

You can disagree with someone's opinion even if you think it's wrong to call him a drunk.

Goesh said...

I really wonder what would happen if the poor people forced into violence by US aggression and oppression actually knocked off the Pope? Who could be punished? Where would the UN direct a letter of condemnation?

Peter said...

Joseph Ratzinger has managed to do a moderate amount of harm—and absolutely no good—to the very tense and distraught discussion now in progress between Europe and Islam.

I mean, really, what was the Pop thinking with all those one-sided comments against religion run amok. Doesn't he know how judgmental his comments are? On what basis does the Pope make such "offensive" statements ... Jesus was certainly NEVER offensive toward those he considered to be religious deviates (No wait ... He was, and they killed him) ... Uhmmmm, well Paul, then, ... he was very accomodating (Oops ... not so much ... killed him too) ... maybe one of the Apostles (Shoot ... all but one was killed) ...

Perhaps leftists should consider that the Pope isn't the Pope to be "media savvy" nor should he look to "bridge a divide" for bridging's sake. If he sees an aspect of another faith that's corrupting the world around him, he should stand up and call it out ... that he's able to do this proves his mettle, not his incompetence.

He's not Pope to play nice or to avoid offending the perpetual and easily offended ... he isn't in place to avoid "moderate harms" nor should he only be doing "good" (in the eyes of a Hitchens) ... he's the spiritual lineage of the Apostle Peter called by God to steer his church ... that's his mandate. In my mind, he's doing it (and I'm not Catholic).

Freder Frederson said...

he's the spiritual lineage of the Apostle Peter called by God to steer his church ... that's his mandate. In my mind, he's doing it (and I'm not Catholic).

You're not Catholic and you believe this? I'm Presbyterian and we believe that the Pope is a man elected by other men to steer his church. He has no special claim to the spirtual lineage of Peter nor is his calling any more profound than the pastor of the local Antioch Baptist Church.

That's what protestentism is all about. And not to defend Hitchens too much, but his point about the Reformation is true. It is the height of hypocracy for the Catholic Church to criticize Islam as being incapable of Reformation when they are still pissed off that the Eastern Church split from them almost a thousand years ago and still consider us protestants as seriously in error.

Seven Machos said...

Fred -- I agree with Hitchens sometimes. Other times, I disagree. His prose is always good. Yours generally sucks. This is because he knows how to make a substantive point. You apparently don't.

What you ought to do is try to make substantive points with your writing.

Joan said...

Well, Freder, Protestant churches are seriously in error, from a Catholic doctrinal perspective. There is still substantial hope that the Eastern and Roman churches can be unified some day. The Reformation, for all that it caused the great schism, was useful to the RC church as well. Earthly institutions, staffed by people as opposed to saints, are prone to corruption. Anything that foments a housecleaning is good in the long run.

This piece by the Anchoress gives an excellent view of the Pope's purpose in making the address.

As for Hitchens, he has a great ascerbic wit, and I appreciate that he sees clearly what's happening with the current war, but his views on religion have always been toxic. Even so, it's simply bad manners to call him a drunk every time his name comes up somewhere, Freder. It does nothing to advance the conversation. What's your point?

Freder Frederson said...

Fred -- I agree with Hitchens sometimes. Other times, I disagree. His prose is always good. Yours generally sucks. This is because he knows how to make a substantive point.

I don't like Hitchens generally because he ignores facts he doesn't like, distorts others to make his point, and uses unproven assertions and unsupported and ridiculous theories to make support his claims. Other times he just makes stuff up or repeats claims that have been repeatedly disproven.

He does generally write pretty well though. I know presentation is a lot more important to the right than actual facts, so I suppose that is why this drunken, ex-Trotskyite, atheist, boorish, Brit has become the darling of the right. He is willing to stick to Bush's lies and defend this debacle in Iraq.

Do you get that substantive point?

Freder Frederson said...

Well, Freder, Protestant churches are seriously in error, from a Catholic doctrinal perspective

I realize that. I was just surprised that a non-Catholic would support the Pope's claim to the lineage of Peter.

As for calling Hitchens a drunk repeatedly. I do it to undermine his competence and authority. I think his analysis is deeply flawed and I believe that his abuse of alcohol has impaired his reasoning ability and his ability to evaluate facts.

Seven Machos said...

Fred -- There actually is not one substantive point in anything you just said. It is vile propaganda at a remedial level.

Consider:

1. he ignores facts...distorts others to make his point... Do you have a single example? The same goes for ridiculous theories and makes stuff up.

2. uses unproven assertions Are you not doing this over and over again as we speak?

3. I know presentation is a lot more important to the right than actual facts.... This is absurd and conclusory. What do you mean? What are you talking about?

4. drunken This is a ridiculous ad hominem attack that ignores substantive ideas completely.

5. Bush's lies Do you realize that whenever you drop this into what you write it makes you look like a juvenile, unthinking boob? It's like saying "feminazi" or "Clinton's Mena Airport connection." President Bush (and the pope) have specific policy goals. Address them. Espouse policy goals that you think will work. Give reasons. Stop with the juvenile name-calling.

ignacio said...

Has Mr Hitchens been arrested for public drunkenness or put in a drunk tank overnight, or arrested for DUI? I'm asking. I don't know.

john(lesser) said...

alcohol has impaired his reasoning ability and his ability to evaluate facts.

Seven hit the nail on the head. You are attacking the speaker, while ignoring the speech. I wonder why.

Bruce Hayden said...

My Protestantism is similar to Freder's and I too saw Hitchens yesterday on C-Span. And, yes, Hitchens is apparently seriously anti-RC. His basic point is that this Pope, and probably more pointedly, his predecessor, JPII, have not been the least bit helpful, but rather a significant hinderance in fighting the WoT up until this point. Hitchens was slashing, pointing out that until now, the Pope has come down on the other side of the issue, for example, by condeming our actions in this war.

It will be interesting to see what develops. Will the Pope back down now in the face of some of the outrage in the Moslem world resulting from his statements? Or was his statement an indication of a change in church position?

My hope is the later. In the past, the RC position has been that this is not a just war. But the Pope's cite of that Byzantine emperor's argument about conversion by the sword being illegitimate may be an important indication that His Holiness has realized that, as Hitchens repeatedly pointed out, we really do have a culture war on our hands where one side is willing to use violence, esp. against the innocent, in order to win. And it is precisely the civilization that he sits at the center of that is being attacked by this willingness to use violence (esp. against innocents) for religious advancement.

Jeremy said...

Ultimately, doesn't the Pope believe that all Muslims - that do not believe in the diety and supremecy of Jesus and instead believe in Allah with Muhammed as his Prophet - are going to spend eternity (which is a very long time) in hell, separated from God, separated from all things good? Is that really less offensive to muslims that what the Pope said?

Seven Machos said...

Ultimately, don't Muslims believe that there is a House of Peace and a House of War, and that all Muslims (particularly males) must make it part of their personal life mission to convert the House of War to Islam -- by military means if necessary?

I think this kind of incendiary reductionism is exactly what we need to avoid, at least for as long as possible.

Freeman Hunt said...

Commenter Peter put it excellently.

You're not Catholic and you believe this?

He didn't write that he believed it. He described the Pope's mandate under Catholicism.

Having read the full text of the Pope's remarks, I'm not sure that Hitchens understood them. Take this for example:

Now its new reactionary leader has really "offended" the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon—reason—that we possess in these dark times.

But the Pope's remarks were specifically in defense of the use of reason in philosophy and theology. He explains his argument for reason not being limited to scientific empiricism. He describes periods of "dehellenization of Christianity," roughly his phrase for the purging of reason from faith, and why he finds such movements to be detrimental.

The Pope's speech is a call to reason for the religious, not a request to distrust it. It is an explicit argument against this idea: "God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."

Jeremy said...

7M,
But Catholics know that Muslims think they're wrong, just like Atheists know that Christians think they're wrong. And everybody thinks that Mormons are wrong, but nobody is going Crazy Freak Out over what other people believe or say, except some Muslims.

The point is that we can try to live peacefully, but that has to mean willing to take a little heat. Muslims have got to know what the Pope believes about them theologically, but they don't seem all that upset about it. Yet he says one not-all-that-controversial thing and it's Shoot the Nun and Firebomb the Church? Where's the perspective?

Freder Frederson said...

Bush's lies

Are we really still holding onto the fiction that Bush doesn't lie? Just last week Bush lied again. He claims he wants "clarification" from the Congress on interrogation techniques. That is simply a lie. He wants nothing of the sort. He just wants the vague standards set out in the Geneva Conventions replaced with another vague standard that would allow harsher interrogation methods.

He also lied about the NSA wiretapping program. And on other issues (e.g., whether or not anyone anticipated the breeching of the levees in New Orleans) he either lied or displayed a wilful and shocking ignorance of facts it was his duty to know. I'll let you decide which is worse.

As for Hitchens. One of his pet theories is the Al Qaeda/Saddam connection. He has hung onto that one with the tenacity of a bulldog. Last week when the Senate came out with their report that there was no such connection, he wrote a column that they were simply wrong. He provided nothing new to back up his assertions. Just said that the V.P. was right all along and the Senate doesn't know what the hell they are talking about.

A Menken Moment said...

Frankly, I don't understand why so much of Hitchens's rancor is directed at the Church. As a Hegelian he must know that all institutions, secular and progressive as well as religious and conservative, are fraught with contradictions. He rightly attacks those which are most violent in their proselytizing, but that hardly describes the Church of today. A number of Popes have repented of the Church's earlier militancy, but Hitchens seems determined to see the Church in the Medieval stage it has sublated. Although I am not a Christian myself, I find the religion's message of forgiving those who, upon turning inward, repent of their transgrssions, superior to and more deeply cognizant of the workings of the dialectic than any secular program of merely external "improvement."

Seven Machos said...

Jeremy -- I am not optimistic about the future, in terms of war and peace. My personal view is that certain radical Muslims are combing the world looking for excuses to be angry. The pope needs to understand this, and speak accordingly, either (a) to provoke and be ready for intellectual and political and real combat or (b) to not provoke, but not (c) to provoke without realizing the possibility of provocation.

My sense is that anybody who makes it to pope is a smart person, so it has to be (a). But I don't know.

Freder Frederson said...

but nobody is going Crazy Freak Out over what other people believe or say, except some Muslims.

Oh yeah, and the fact that the British had troops in Northern Ireland for over 35 years had nothing to do with religion. Neither did the mess in the Balkans in the '90s.

Freder Frederson said...

Frankly, I don't understand why so much of Hitchens's rancor is directed at the Church.

Because, he's still basically a communist at heart. His love for authoritarian government shows through. He really doesn't have much time for democratic institutions.

The Drill SGT said...

Frankly, the Pope's speech was not about christian-muslim relations, but rather about faith versus reason in the context of scientific inquiry.

Seven Machos said...

Fred --

He just wants the vague standards set out in the Geneva Conventions replaced with another vague standard that would allow harsher interrogation methods.

Take out the loaded word "vague" and a good word to use here is clarification.

If you want to keep up the "Bush lied" theme, more power to you. I have tried to tell you that it makes you look like an propagandizing loon. Certainly, you don't have to listen to me.

There's also an amazing cognitive dissonance. Bush is a total moron some of the time. Other times, he is apparently in command of all the facts in the universe. Still further, I am definitively not a Bill Clinton hater, but any reasonable observer must admit: Bill Clinton lied. Yet Clinton's verifiable lack of truthfulness is not an issue for you. And even further: Jimmy Carter lied rarely, if at all. Yet he was one of the worst presidents ever. Why the focus on charges of lying? Why particularly when Americans don't seem to care about the charge?

But, hey, buck up: your side is guaranteed to defeat President Bush in 2008. I bet he gets no votes.

Freder Frederson said...

If you want to keep up the "Bush lied" theme, more power to you.

The Bush lied theme, and indeed our acceptance of his lies is important because he has raised lying to the American people to such an art.

The "clarification" issue is a perfect example. To the casual observer, the President's position is perfectly reasonable. He's not asking for permission to torture or use harsh interrogation techniques. No, he just wants to know what is and is not permissable. But that is not the case at all. He doesn't want explicit rules. He just wants the bar lowered so the interrogators will have more freedom to use techniques that would be clearly illegal under the Geneva Conventions. After all "shocks the conscience" is not a clearer standard than "degrading and humiliating".

C. Schweitzer said...

There are many things I love about Christopher Hitchens. And I agree with him about 65% of the time. But there are two area where I absolutely cringe when it comes to Hitch: his virulent anti-Catholicism and his tendency to write vicious obituaries.

Richard Dolan said...

Like many, Hitchens has a blind spot when it comes to organized religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. He's been railing against religions as a kind of foolishness fit only for the hopelessly credulous and slow-witted for years. His piece in Slate was typical, and his blind spot about all things religious causes him to miss the point of the Pope's Regensburg speech. John Allen's piece in the NYT today, Prof. Bainbridge's stuff on his site and at TCS, along with much other commentary on the web, gives the same subject a much more sympathetic, and I think truer, read.

Before getting to Hitchens and the Regensburg speech, there is something that has been bothering me recently about the weird tangents that seem to engulf these threads. Many of the comments on this thread make no attempt to address either Hitchens' argument or the Pope's speech that Hitchens trashes. Instead, there is a lot of silly talk about whether Hitchens is a drunk (who cares? are his arguments less powerful if he is?), sprinkled with the usual tiresome snarkiness and ad hominems all around. One commenter thinks the real subject of interest on this thread should be how others relate to him, given "all the flak" he thinks he received about something else. It's as if the topic of interest on these threads is really all about him. Oh, please. It would be nice if one could say that this is just the fading impact of the boob-athon that broke out over the last few days here. But unfortunately, it's more of a chronic problem. Some people need to grow up, and while they go about that task, would be well advised to spare others from more mindless rants.

Having gotten that off my mind, I found the Pope's speech, along with all the commentary such as the Hitchens article it has generated, quite interesting. Here's my take for any who are similarly interested.

The ostensible subject of the Pope's speech is whether the Greek concept of logos is integral to the Christian understanding of God, and to the idea of the Divine more generally. The Pope contrasts various statements from Islamic sages, to the effect that the absolute freedom of God precludes any effort to limit the characteristics of the Divinity within the confines of mere human rationality (or any other categories). The Pope rejects that view, at least in its crudest form, citing (among other things) the opening of John's Gospel ("In the beginning was the Word [logos] ..."). The Pope also makes the more general argument that, for the religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), a fundamental and common belief is that Man was created in the image of God, and thus, by making reason and rationality the defining human characteristic, God has revealed an important truth about Himself as well. From that starting point, he draws various conclusions, of which the most pertinent are that reason itself rules out violence as a religiously sanctioned response to other religions; and that purely positivist concepts of reason and rationality (the sort of thing that Hitchens seems to have in mind) hardly delimit the capacity of human reason, and can themselves give rise to a poverty of the human spirit if used to exclude forms of inquiry not susceptible to experimental proof.

Contrary to Hitchens' dismissive take, the speech is quite interesting purely as a philosophical and theological argument. But it defies common sense to think that the Pope chose the particular frame with which he started off his argument -- the quotes from a 14th century conversation between the Emperor and a Muslim cleric that have the usual suspects riled up -- without a more specific objective in mind. Surely, the Pope understood full well that his selected quotations would go off like a bomb in fundamentalist Islamic circles.

It's hard (indeed, impossible) to believe that the Vatican would ignore the entirely predictable consequences that would (and now have) followed from the Pope's quotation of obviously controversial views about the Prophet (even dated ones from the 14th century). Benedict XVI and the members of his inner circle are just not the kind of men and the Vatican is not the kind of organization that make naive mistakes or fail to consider the consequences and ramifications of every Papal pronouncement, from every angle, before it is ever made. It is also a certainty that the Vatican is both informed and concerned about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic countries.

In short, I don't find persuasive the suggestion that the Pope stumbled into this fight because he happened to be reading Professor Khoury's book recently and thought the story about the Emperor was an interesting anecdote that provided a good way to start his discussion about the place of logos in Christian theology. Certainly, the Pope could easily have picked some other rhetorical starting point to launch into his putative subject. The only question is why the Pope chose to use the comments by a 14th century Emperor to frame his discussion of faith and reason.

Given the long temporal horizons with which the Vatican typically works, I think this may have been a first, tentative stab by the Pope at trying to address what he evidently sees as the defining problem for the world presented by radical Islamofascism in the coming decades -- like the demise of the Communist regimes that his predecessor addressed and, by doing so, helped partially to bring about in the 1980s.

In part, I think he was reacting to the timidity and near paralysis of the EU powers in confronting Islamofascism in general, and the inability of the US to engage with Muslims on the subject of the excesses of contemporary fundamentalist Islam. Thus, I suspect that there is a feeling in the Vatican that the Pope is uniquely well placed to try to raise these issues where other players on the world stage cannot or will not. In part, I think he was reacting to the view among many Muslims that it is acceptable to use force and threats of violence to create a favored position among religions for Islam rather than whatever inherent persuasiveness and appeal Islam may present. It seems to me that the Pope may well be trying to get a dialog started with "moderate Muslims," assuming he can find any, to address and perhaps start to redress, those excesses. (As Ann pointed out yesterday, a Grand Mufti in Lebanon seems to have picked up on the Pope's theme, even as he bowed rhetorically by taking a few shots at the Pope's supposed ignorance.)

While the use of violence to advance Islamic beliefs is clearly contrary to the demands of reason as outlined by the Pope in this speech, there are many more Islamic practices defended and pursued by Islamic fundamentalist regimes that are equally objectionable from his perspective. Among them are the prohibitions, backed by severe sanctions (including in some instances the death penalty), for Muslims converting to another religion, for any efforts in Muslim countries deemed to constitute proselytizing (including the mere possession of a Bible), and for the practice of religions other than Islam. The more general problem that the Pope's speech hints at but never directly addresses is the glaring contradictions between fundamentalist Islam as practiced and preached by the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs, and many other factions, and the demands of Christian love as understood in the Western tradition. No doubt, the Pope was also reacting to the many controversies in the EU sparked by violence directed at anyone deemed to have been critical of Islam.

I think the Pope is trying to find common ground with Muslims to condemn that view of Islam, and first he has to find the Islamic scholars willing to engage with him on it. Obviously, it is far from certain that he will succeed, assuming that I am right about his objectives. But, as the cliche goes, every journey starts with a first step, and that's what this speech looks like to me. Whether quoting the harsh comments by a 14th century Emperor was a smart way to start on that journey is another matter.

Hitchens doesn't engage the Pope's speech at all on any of those levels, and he is clearly wrong about the non-apology issued by the Vatican. Far from backing down, the Pope made it clear that he was seeking a "frank and serious dialogue," and by way of a bow to those ranting in the Muslim street (and proving his larger point), offered only anodyne rhetoric about not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings.

Hitchens, like Karen Armstrong's piece in yesterday's Guardian, Hitchens chooses instead to offer a tendentious and irrelevant discussion of medieval history. Since the historical details are utterly beside the point, it suffices to note that, while the leaders of Christendom acted and behaved according to medieval principles during the medieval period, medievalism of that sort ended in the West centuries ago. The point is not that barbarism has disappeared in the West -- unfortunately, quite the opposite -- but rather that no one in the West has sought to justify murderous barbarism by invoking Christian principles in a very long time. The issue raised by the Pope's speech was not some academic comparison of violence and murder by Islamic vs. Christian leaders of centuries ago, but the obvious fact that, in today's world, only Islamic religious leaders call for or seek to justify murderous violence by invoking religious principles.

The point of the Pope's speech was to find Islamic clerics or other leaders who would make common cause with him in knocking the religious props out from under that justification for the sort of murderous violence that the world has become all too accustomed to seeing. If Hitchens could get past his blind spot about religions, I suspect he would heartily support that effort. But we all have our failings, and given his very considerable abilities, his failings tend to be set forth in take-no-prisoners prose of considerable power.

Al Maviva said...

Freder, it's the height of hypocrasy [sic] for you to make negative comments about the Catholic Church, given the violence with which Protestants in some countries (including the U.S., BTW) assaulted Catholics, and insisted that non-Presbyterians are damned. Just out of curiosity, if all the sects are just as good as all the others, why be Presbyterian? Why not Methodist or Baptist? Or Unitarian, God(s)(ess)(esses) forbid?

If you find this an outrageous commment, I suggest you go back and re-read your comment regarding Papal hypocrasy [sic] before you hit the "login and publish" button.

Fitz said...

Christopher Hitches is a serious atheist and dedicated religious detractor. As a man of the Left he can do or say anything about the Iraq War, human rights, the left itself, Democratic Presidents and leaders. The one thing he cannot do (and the one thing that’s required of leftists and remaining a “man of the left”) is except religious believers or thought as valid.


(By the way – The Pope is the Bishop of Rome –{First among equals, and the settler of disputes)
The term Pope is Greek and means Papa, (an endearing name for Father denoting a closer more casual an intimate relationship) Their our other words in Greek that mimic the more formal Father.

S.T. Steiner said...

I am amazed not only by our Pope's wisdom, which stems from his ability to read texts in their original language, but also by his intellect, his ability to raise the bar on issues in the hopes to advocate dialogue and change, and his outright ability to say "Prost" to his followers and comrades. Thus far, our Pope has visited Germany and Poland ~ relatively safe havens.

I actually saw our Pope in person, in Altoetting, Germany, with 60,000 other believers, on September 11. The day consisted of bright German sunshine, voices of angels in the professional choir, and prayer among peace-loving people. As official helicopters flew overhead, carrying our Holy See of Peter, we all waved our Vatican flags, enthusiastically, while we all covered our heads with heaven-blue scarves printed with the image of our Holy Mother, Mary. There was not a signal sign of terrorism.

I am not familiar with Hitchens, but from what I gather in this thread, he is simply not worth my time.

In this caravan, I'm following Dolan. I'm in the Audi TT.

Revenant said...

I just can't wait for all of you to rise up and defend Hitchens, especially after all the flak I received for calling him a drunk the other day.

I don't remember if I bothered posting a defense of him in the other thread or not (put me down for a "find out what he's drinking and give it to the other left-wing pundits", in any case). But I didn't see anything to disagree with in his remarks about the Pope and Catholicism. All religions are ultimately pretty absurd, from a rational perspective.

ignacio said...

Richard Dolan's remarks here today are welcome. Elsewhere I've seen interesting pieces by Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, an editorial in the Times of London, as well as a thoughtful blog by the Anchoress.

I'm neither a Catholic nor lapsed Catholic, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Particularly as I believe the Pope is to visit a Muslim country fairly soon.

Turkey? Under Erdogan it's not the same country as it was a few years back. So we'll see.

So often what affects history seems to come out of left field.

Revenant said...

The one thing he cannot do (and the one thing that’s required of leftists and remaining a "man of the left") is except religious believers or thought as valid.

That is simply incorrect. There are Christian Socialists throughout the world, particularly in Europe; there are even Christian Communists. Most of the left holds people like Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, and Desmond Tutu in high regard. In domestic American politics, people like Jesse Jackson and Jimmy Carter are generally viewed favorably by the left as well.

There are sections of the left which are actively hostile to religion, certainly. But it is by no means the case that all of the left falls into that category.

Now, granted, little of the Left is friendly to Catholicism. But I would argue that, given that the Church is an autocratic and undemocratic institution with an extremely poor track record for standing up for human freedom, few freedom-loving people of the right OR left should be particularly inclined to defer to the Pope.

Fitz said...

revenant

“All religions are ultimately pretty absurd, from a rational perspective.”

This is precisely the mindset the Holy Father was trying to address in his speech. It’s main axiom was to confront western “rationalist” Not Islam. A sound bite culture produced the current outrage.

You should read the original speech and perhaps you will refrain from this approach in the future.

Freeman Hunt said...

There are Christian Socialists throughout the world, particularly in Europe; there are even Christian Communists. Most of the left holds people like Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, and Desmond Tutu in high regard. In domestic American politics, people like Jesse Jackson and Jimmy Carter are generally viewed favorably by the left as well.

This is true, but with a strong caveat. Many "Christian Socialists" and "Christian Communists" have set up their political ideologies in place of religion. I used to be a member of such a church. Faith and belief were viewed as specious, and Jesus was depicted as a sort of communist revolutionary.

That is not the case of all Christian socialists and communists, but it is certainly the case with many.

Also, it is not true that political leftists and Catholics do not mix. Look at the rise of liberation theology in Latin America.

Dave said...

Dolan's comments are quite good.

Revenant said...

Also, it is not true that political leftists and Catholics do not mix. Look at the rise of liberation theology in Latin America.

Anyone can *call* themselves a Catholic, I suppose. But I think the Vatican's open hostility to liberation theology pretty much demonstrates that they aren't compatable. If liberation theology continues as is, the likely result will be a schism and the formation of a new, non-Roman-Catholic church that follows liberation theology instead of Catholic dogma.

Fitz said...

“If liberation theology continues as is, the likely result will be a schism and the formation of a new, non-Roman-Catholic church that follows liberation theology instead of Catholic dogma.”

It seems that liberation theology has peeked and run its course. While leftist ideologies continue to have popular appeal in Latin America, the Church itself has made peace with the extent it participates in open revolution. Calls for human rights and greater more transparent democracy can and our made without appeals to liberation theology per see.

The Likelihood of a schism within Catholicism over liberation theology is so rare as to be comical.

vegetius said...

Dola (above) hits the nail on the head. Well done.

Revenant said...

This is precisely the mindset the Holy Father was trying to address in his speech.

I'm aware of that. But taking advice on rational thinking from a Pope is a bit like taking advice on chastity from a whore. They might be aware of the theory, but they're unfamiliar with the practice. On the subject of rational thought my own expertise is much greater than that of any priest.

The Likelihood of a schism within Catholicism over liberation theology is so rare as to be comical.

Fitz, two hours ago you didn't even think that left-wing religion existed. So don't try to feign expertise in liberation theology, ok?

Traditionalist Catholics schismed with Rome over less-significant differences in dogma than those of liberation theology. Obviously a schism between adherents of liberation theology and followers of the Vatican isn't going to be on par with the ones of the 11th and 16th centuries, but it is hardly ridiculous to think that some Central or South American churches might choose to go their own way.

Dave said...

Some commenters have made note of Hitchens' anti-Catholicism.

He seems equally skeptical of Muslims' core beliefs: "where Muslims believe that Mohammed went into a trance and took dictation from an archangel, Ratzinger accepts as true the equally preposterous legend that St. Paul was commanded to evangelize for Christ during the course of a vision experienced in a dream."

Say what you will about Hitchens but at least he is consistent in his opprobrium. Some will see that as a virtue, others will see it as a vice.

Interpret as you will.

Word verification: QEDPPZ. Which was to be demonstrated, peoples.

Derve said...

It's hard (indeed, impossible) to believe that (before the speech was given) the Vatican would ignore the entirely predictable consequences that would (and now have) followed from the Pope's quotation of obviously controversial views about the Prophet (even dated ones from the 14th century). Benedict XVI and the members of his inner circle are just not the kind of men and the Vatican is not the kind of organization that make naive mistakes or fail to consider the consequences and ramifications of every Papal pronouncement, from every angle, before it is ever made.
...
Surely, the Pope understood full well that his selected quotations would go off like a bomb in fundamentalist Islamic circles."


That was a very good post about the message being one of reaching out to moderates, but I have to disagee with how he thought it would go over. I think he overestimated its reception.

I think he has confidence in what he said and stands by it, but think he was naive enough to think it would be better received. You give some characteristics of Vatican men, but fail to note these are not the type of men who would say something like this, and not genuinely mean it:

A top Vatican official said Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI “deeply regretted” that a speech he made this week “sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers.”

"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect. These (words) were in fact a quotation from a Medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought."




If he had to do it all over again, I think he would have finessed the speech, cutting some of the quotations that were taken as offensive, yet tried to get the same message across in "less threatening" ways.

I agree "the point of the Pope's speech was to find Islamic clerics or other leaders who would make common cause with him" but think he underestimated the violent response, never expected such that kind of response to his brief mention. Apparently he wrote the speech himself.

Some Vatican analysts say Benedict is taking a harder line toward Islam then his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose efforts for closer relations included a visit to a mosque in Syria — the first by a pope to a Muslim house of worship.

They point to Benedict's decision in March to merge the Vatican's office for dialogue with Muslims with its culture office, and to send the English prelate who headed it, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, — considered a top Islamic expert — to Egypt as papal envoy.

Commenting on the move, the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit authority on the Vatican, called Fitzgerald, "the smartest guy in the Vatican on relations with Muslims. You don't exile someone like that, you listen to them. If the Vatican says something dumb about Muslims, people will die in parts of Africa and churches will be burned in Indonesia, let alone what happens in the Middle East," Reese said in April.

Benedict, aides said, wrote the speech himself that he delivered last week to an audience of professors at the University of Regensburg, where he previously taught theology. It is not known whether any aide was alarmed at the possibility for trouble, although journalists who received advance copies of the text asked the Vatican spokesman for explanations hours before Benedict delivered the address. When reading the lines about Islam, Benedict did add "I quote" twice.

Peter said...

Freder Frederson ... you wrote earlier He has no special claim to the spirtual lineage of Peter nor is his calling any more profound than the pastor of the local Antioch Baptist Church

Inasmuch as Peter = 1st Pope, Benedict/Ratzinger = 265th Pope, that's the spiritual lineage ... and, clearly, a "special claim" to this exists. There's really no use for non-Catholics to dispute this.

I wasn't saying he holds authority over all Christians nor was I giving him some greater place in heaven for being Pope.

I agree & disagree that his call isn't more "profound" ... on one hand it certainly is ... what he says and does effects millions whereas the "local pastor" may only touch thousands ... it is profound in its responsibility. On the other hand, I think the Pope himself would say that people are called according to their gifts ... while he may be the "eyes" or the "mouth" of the metaphoric body of Christians ... the "arms" or "feet" are no less important simply because they are less observed.

My point was, the Pope's an umpire ... he calls 'em as he sees 'em ... hurt feelings or not.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Does this pope know how to zing rats or what people? [rimshot] Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on? [Boos, hisses, catcalls, etc.]

Peter said...

Oh and freder ... comments like this the Bush lied theme, and indeed our acceptance of his lies is important because he has raised lying to the American people to such an art make one look like a two year old holding their breath to gain submission from their parents.

You're free to think what you'd like, but ...
1) Claiming someone else "lied" is extremely bad form ... for one would either have to a) be psychic, b) be present and knowledgable about/during ALL relevant facts/occurences surrounding supposed "lie" or c) God. I see no basis in your posts for either of the first two ... perhaps the third is the case and You're just passing through.

- Telling others that we must accept your mutant-like lie perception (I guess that's a letter "d") as truth and of importance is retarded given point 1.

No one knows if Bush lies (much less brought such to an art) ... just stick with "I don't like Bush" ... no one can argue with that.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Drill SGT said...

Richard Dolan said...
Surely, the Pope understood full well that his selected quotations would go off like a bomb in fundamentalist Islamic circles.

OK, accepting your whole logic about the quotation having been thought out, etc etc. That the Vatican operates on a horizon of decades and centuries, and that all Pope speeches are vetted and staffed: So why 2 apologies...

The first a non apology and the second much more abject and weak. If the Pope was making a verbal counterattack and attempting to provide moral backbone to EU politicans, then they should have written the speech and the apology as a package, knowing that in the apology they'd have to step back a bit, but would have a chance to riposte as well. I thought that neither apology was well thought out. The Pope looked weak after the second.

Freder Frederson said...

1) Claiming someone else "lied" is extremely bad form ... for one would either have to a) be psychic, b) be present and knowledgable about/during ALL relevant facts/occurences surrounding supposed "lie"

If I say I can lift 5000 lbs over my head, you can say I am lying without knowing any further relavent facts or anything about me. When the president claims he wants "clarification" on interrogation techniques when what he really wants is one vague subjective standard replaced by a different yet equally vague subjective standard, he is also lying.

On matters of fact, where he may actually be wilfully ignorant or may not be aware of facts that it is his duty to know, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But giving the benefit of the doubt really doesn't help him much in my eyes.

"Noone anticipated the breach of the levies" is a demonstrably false statement. It is either a display of woeful and misinformed ignorance displaying a misunderstanding of a basic fact the president of the U.S. should have known. Alternately, he was simply lying when he made the statement (i.e., he knew that the breach of the levees was anticipated). As far as I am concerned, either option argues forcefully that the man should not be president, so I don't really care if it is a lie or just a display of gross incompetence.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, it's the height of hypocrasy [sic] for you to make negative comments about the Catholic Church

I did not mean to make negative comments about the Catholic Church, merely point out that as protestants we do not necessarily adhere to the claims of the Popes lineage as heir to Peter and that the Catholic Church has fought reformations from almost the beginning of Christianity and that it is somewhat a kettle/black situation for the Pope (especially this Pope), of all Christian leaders, to criticize Islam for its refusal to undergo a reformation. Except for the Orthodox Church the Catholic Church is the one that insists on the greatest adherence to ancient traditions and dogma.

Richard Dolan said...

Drill Sgt. I suppose "abject and weak" is in the eye of the beholder here. I am not sure what specific language in the Vatican statements you have in mind. Perhaps it is the same language that Derve points to, from the statement by the Vatican Sec'y of State:

"A top Vatican official said Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI 'deeply regretted' that a speech he made this week 'sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers.'"

"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect. These (words) were in fact a quotation from a Medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought."

The wording of that statement is parsed very carefully. We should do the same to understand what is being said. "Deeply regret[ing]" that others misunderstood the import of the Pope's speech is rooted, not in any view that the Pope's message was in some way an erroneous take on this aspect of his topic, but only that others didn't quite understand his message. It's not even an "apology" that his choice of language was inadequate to express the intended message. Without making any statement about why his speech "sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers," he merely expressed regret for their having taken it that way.
The statement then launches into the "frank and serious dialogue" idea, which sounds to me like a reiteration of his message rather than a retraction of it.

No one suggests that the Pope meant to adopt the statement by the Emperor, to the effect that "what Mohammed brought" was "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." If that were the Pope's point, then by definition there is no possible commonality of reason or rationale discourse with Islamic clerics or leaders along the terms that the Pope is seeking to jump-start. The last part of the Vatican statement makes that seemingly uncontroversial point, but goes no further than that. In sum, there is not much "apology" in this apologia. By the same token, the few extremists who want only to slam Islam as a degenerate ideology of murder and hate won't find much to like in this speech, or the several other statements issued by the Pope on the general subject since his election.

I didn't see any other statement on the Vatican website that might qualify as an "abject and weak" apology, and thus don't know what else you might be referring to.

Whether the Vatican foresaw the extent of the violence that would ensue from the Pope's speech, I certainly cannot say. The "cartoon" circus, the van Gogh murder, and much similar history going back decades to, e.g., the fatwas calling for the death of Salman Rushdie for writing Satanic Verses, made it obvious, I think, that there would be such a reaction. Absent something more persuasive than articles in the press, I would be slow to conclude that the Vatican operatives (including the Pope) somehow missed what is blinding obvious if one would only take the time to look.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do find myself somewhat surprised that I find some common ground with Freder on religion, of all things.

That said, I did find Richard Dolan's post very good. He made a lot of good points.

I do think that it is good that the Pope appears to be engaging here. He represents more people religiously in the world than almost anyone, and the battleground is to a very great extent going to be in his home ground: Europe. What happens if the RC church starts having to pay taxes to Moslem rulers, or, the Vatican loses its sovereignty?

And I do think that Islam has to be engaged on this level - spiritually and morally. Someone has to rebut that religion, as it is practiced by some, in that way, and no one in the world is better placed to do so.

Steven said...

Yeah, Hitchens is anti-religion, and anti-Catholic in particular. What's new? These are standard European Left positions since Voltaire.

He, by the way, ignores the fact that the Byzantine Emperor was specifically talking about innovations, not practice. Yes, the Catholic Church has killed a lot of people.

But the supression of heresy or impiety by the civil authorities is common in human history long before the Catholic Church came along.

At the same time, the idea of a war of conversion did not exist until Mohammed invented it. The Crusades were launched from a Chrietendom that had been half-conquered by jihad. The conquest and conversion of the future Latin America and the attempts to conquer Protestant countries in the 17th Century came from Spain (and later from the Austrian branch of the Spanish royal family), that portion of Christendom that had the longest exposure to Muslim rule without being absorbed.

The result is that much of the blood on the hands of the Catholic Church can be attributed to Mohammed's ideas adopted by Christians, while the rest is from ideas that existed long before Christianity. It doesn't mean the blood isn't the responisbility of the Church as the proximate cause, but Mohammed came up with the idea. He was the innovator.

(The Fourth Crusade, by the way, hit Constantinople to fulfil the secular wishes of the Venitians to have a trading competitor wiped out, not the religious objectives of the RCC. Which is why the Pope of the time condemned the sacking of the city.)

Peter said...

Freder ... you said, If I say I can lift 5000 lbs over my head, you can say I am lying without knowing any further relavent facts or anything about me.

I could say you're 1) self-delusional, 2) using hyperbole, 3) leaving out critical information about how you accomplish such, 4) mistaken, or 5) gifted with "ant-like" strength.

I CANNOT say you are lying, for to do so requires a deep understanding of your purpose and/or intent for making the statement. That half the country seems unable to understand this is ridiculous (or they purposefully ignore this rendering themselves ridiculous).

To review ... a lie is not something said which is found to be untrue ... a lie is something said with the INTENT to PURPOSEFULLY deceive. Saying "You lied" to someone is no different than saying "You did it on purpose" ... ironically, I most often hear the latter stated by 5 year-olds to whom EVERYTHING is on purpose (the world is still very much black and white to them).

Derve said...

Whether the Vatican foresaw the extent of the violence that would ensue from the Pope's speech, I certainly cannot say.

Good dialogue.
Before, you said this, "It's hard (indeed, impossible) to believe that the Vatican would ignore the entirely predictable consequences that would (and now have) followed from the Pope's quotation of obviously controversial views about the Prophet."
-----------

The "cartoon" circus, the van Gogh murder, and much similar history going back decades to, e.g., the fatwas calling for the death of Salman Rushdie for writing Satanic Verses, made it obvious, I think, that there would be such a reaction.

Obvious to who? Remember the Vatican was not strongly supportive of the cartoons' publication. Remember the recent words about the West thinking freedom of expression was about the right to post cartoons, but not respect for what others hold sacred?

Absent something more persuasive than articles in the press, I would be slow to conclude that the Vatican operatives (including the Pope) somehow missed what is blinding obvious if one would only take the time to look.

I do think they missed it; what might be blindingly obvious to you and me about how those words would be received, was probably not anticipated by the Pope, who maybe assumed his words would be given greater deference because of who he is, and how he tried to approach the issue.

That's what Drill Sgt. is saying about the "apology". You're right to deconstruct it, as AA implied in the original post. He's not taking back what he said, but does regret it sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

If he really had anticipated the same reaction of the cartoons, like Drill Sgt. said, the follow-up "apologies" would have been better constructed. He wanted a dialogue, and you usually don't get that when you knowingly anger and inflame -- no matter who it is taking the message that way.

Again, the message was worthwhile. The strategy was flawed. Hence the apology to those who took offense, the backing off (which is what I suspect some see as weak.) I mean, if you know what the response will be and you are determined to stick with your words, you'd do a better job on the follow up. This is a Pope, not a leader looking to provoke so that his words can be proven true.

They didn't expect the degree of protests, for whatever reason. I'd bet on it.

Revenant said...

If I say I can lift 5000 lbs over my head, you can say I am lying without knowing any further relavent facts or anything about me.

We can make an educated guess that you're either lying or delusional, based on the fact that no human being has ever been known to be able to lift that much weight. But nothing Bush has claimed to know or have done is beyond the realm of normal human experience, so your example is, as always, inane and irrelevant.

When the president claims he wants "clarification" on interrogation techniques when what he really wants is one vague subjective standard replaced by a different yet equally vague subjective standard, he is also lying

Information Freder obtained using his magical ESP powers is in bold.

Derve said...

"... and no one in the world is better placed to do so. "

I think a person working within the religion -- here an influential Muslim -- is "better placed" to rebut and bring about effective change.

quietnorth said...

Some people, maybe many, think better when they drink. We need to face up to it. That would be an interesting thread.

I like to read Hitchens because to be serious about this war, I have to answer (in my own head, anyway) to thoughtful people I disagree with.

Hitchens is more consistent than people give him credit for. He glib self righteousness is responsible in part. But isn't he the kind of person you would wander around from pub to pub to find to argue with?

Walter said...

I just lifted 5000 lbs. over my head.

Did I just lie, or did I use a lift to jack up my car over my head?

Revenant said...

I think a person working within the religion -- here an influential Muslim -- is "better placed" to rebut and bring about effective change.

Not necessarily. Islam actually takes a much harsher view of Muslims who stray from the true path than it does of infidels who were never on the true path to begin with. Plus, of course, the influential Muslims of the world by and large live in majority-Muslim or all-Muslim societies, which places them at a high risk of assassination or imprisonment if they speak out against Islamic excesses. The Pope, in contrast, is about as safe from retaliation as anyone can be -- he's rich, has his own country, and is surrounded by bodyguards at all times.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Let me answer your question, Freder Frederson, my good man, even though you did not ask a question.

I am close personal friends with both Christopher Hitchens and the Pope, so sometimes the fact that Hitchens hates the Pope and religion in general and the Pope loves a particular religion and loves Hitchens too, but thinks he is going to hell, is difficult.

(Inside dirt: Hitch is actually a teetotaler, while Benny is a raging drunk! Also, Hitch has a lovely singing voice and Benny is really good at charades.)

I have many friends who hate each other. What I do is this: I make fun of them with the other friends when the other friends are not around, and vice versa.

Regarding Hitchen's piece. If "hate" is the right word - which it isn't but who cares, let's keep things simple - I'm quite certain Hitchens hates Islam more than the Pope hates Islam. I don't think Hitchens thinks what the Pope said was inaccurate, just unwise, dangerous, and hypocritical. He has a point.

But come on. Hitchens hates Islam. He hates all religions and Islam is a religion-hater's wet-dream. How upset can he really be that the Pope suggested Islam was all screwed-up? If Oriana Fallaci said what the Pope said, Hitchens would be yelling, Right on!

I think Hitchens wrote the piece because he had a column due - because he always has a column due - and to maintain his Atheist Cred.

Derve said...

"The Pope, in contrast, is about as safe from retaliation as anyone can be -- he's rich, has his own country, and is surrounded by bodyguards at all times."

Sorry.
I thought the question was not who is better protected to speak out and criticize, but who is in the best position to bring about effective change.

I still maintain it will come from within, but you must know more than me about the respect given the Pope and other infidels in those circles. Funny, I don't see it.

Freder Frederson said...

Information Freder obtained using his magical ESP powers is in bold.

Umm, no information Freder gained by paying attention to the difference between what Bush claimed to the press he wanted and what he actually wants the Congress to give him.

Did he send Congress a list of interrogtion methods or standards of conduct for the CIA to follow? Did he ask the Congress to codify the new Army Field Manual on Interrogation (which explicitly bans some of the methods the CIA used and the President is apparently advocating)?

Not at all. What he wants Congress to do is replace the standard of "degrading and humiliating" found in the Geneva Conventions with the standard of "shocks the conscience" when it comes to interrogations conducted by the CIA. How is that clarifying anything?. I am certain that my conscience will be shocked with a lot easier than a lot of people on this site and I'm sure many of the people posting on LGF simply have no conscience to be shocked at all.

Consequently, when the President says he wants "clarification" from the Congress, he is lying in the most rigid "Peter" definition of the term. He is intentionally and purposefully deceiving the public about the goals of his proposed legislation. It will clarify nothing.

tjl said...

How is it that any topic, no matter what it might be, becomes in Freder's head a springboard into his obsessive "Bush lied!!!!" monomania?

Freder Frederson said...

How is it that any topic, no matter what it might be, becomes in Freder's head a springboard into his obsessive "Bush lied!!!!" monomania?

This thread is about Cristopher Hitchens, a former Communist and atheist who would be hated by the right if not for his unabashed support for the Iraq War. Hitchens' particular reason for supporting the war is his continuing belief in the Saddam/Al Qaeda link.

Any time that the right's love affair with Hitchens comes up, the issue of Bush's dishonesty must come up because they are entwined. People like Hitchens helped spread all kinds of half-truths and outright falsehoods based on bad intelligence and half-baked conspiracy theories.

Now you may claim that the Bush administration has never lied to the American people. I heartily disagree and can provide you with specific quotes where they made statements that they knew or should have known were untrue. In my book saying something that is untrue, when you have the responsibility to find out the truth but wilfully do not do so (e.g., the whole aluminum tubes debacle or the levee statement), is no different than telling an outright lie.

Revenant said...

Sorry.
I thought the question was not who is better protected to speak out and criticize, but who is in the best position to bring about effective change.


Given that Muslims murder or imprison people who try to change their religion, there's no real difference between those two things.

Pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that there are no Muslims with an international voice who are trying to reform Islam. Not one. Now either no such Muslims *want* change, or for some reason none of them are willing to speak. I would hope that the latter is the case, because if the former is the case then we're all in a lot of trouble.

I still maintain it will come from within, but you must know more than me about the respect given the Pope and other infidels in those circles. Funny, I don't see it.

Historically, sick cultures change their ways not because people within the culture speak up, but because outsiders appeal to reasonable people within the culture in question and get them to see the need for change -- Gandhi with the British Empire, Martin Luther King versus American institutional racism, etc. The Pope said nothing that would give offense to a reasonable Muslim -- and, obviously, the unreasonable ones can't be reasoned with.

Derve said...

See and where you see outsiders to those "sick cultures", I would use those two men as examples of working within the culture to bring about change. Different ways of seeing and assembling the material is all.

Revenant said...

See and where you see outsiders to those "sick cultures", I would use those two men as examples of working within the culture to bring about change. Different ways of seeing and assembling the material is all

So think of the Pope as working within the community of followers of God to reform wayward members, then. That's no more of a stretch than thinking of Gandhi as an insider within the British colonial government.

Revenant said...

What he wants Congress to do is replace the standard of "degrading and humiliating" found in the Geneva Conventions with the standard of "shocks the conscience" when it comes to interrogations conducted by the CIA. How is that clarifying anything?

We can determine if something shocks our conscience. We cannot determine, unless we have your magical mind-reading powers, if a terrorist truly feels demeaned and humiliated by a treatment or is simply claiming he does because he finds the experience unpleasant.

Furthermore, a "shocks the conscience" standard is much more stable, as the range of behaviors that people around the world find degrading and humiliating is much broader than the range of behaviors Americans find shocking to the conscience. Muslim terrorists would find it humiliating to be guarded by Jews, for example, but no American jury is going to agree that there's anything shocking to the conscience about Jewish guards.

I am certain that my conscience will be shocked with a lot easier than a lot of people on this site and I'm sure many of the people posting on LGF simply have no conscience to be shocked at all.

Setting aside the unproven hypothesis that you actually have morals and/or a conscience, you're missing the obvious fact that the "shocks the conscience" standard is what will be used by people determining if torture has been committed -- i.e., by criminal investigators, not by the torturers themselves. So it doesn't matter that some people have no conscience -- torturers would only escape prosecution if both they AND all of the people in a position to stop them had no consciences.

Consequently, when the President says he wants "clarification" from the Congress, he is lying in the most rigid "Peter" definition of the term.

Ah, I see the problem. You define any statement you're too stupid to understand as "a lie". No wonder you think alll the people making intelligent suggestions for foreign and military policy are "liars".

Derve said...

So think of the Pope as working within the community of followers of God to reform wayward members, then. That's no more of a stretch than thinking of Gandhi as an insider within the British colonial government.

Surely you're not telling me how to think? Save your energy. You misunderstand what I was saying.

Gandhi is an excellent example of a leader working within a culture to effect change. He knew the people he was leading. He was one of them. He didn't make mis-steps, because he was in tune with who was listening and how his message would be received by the Indian people. He was the father of the Indian nation. This power came from his own, not from anything granted him by the colonial authorities. They were mere followers, reacting to something bigger than themselves, same as the American politicians and public who began listening to Dr. King and the movement he led. It's work, but it works, history shows, if you understand your own, and others.

Revenant said...

This power came from his own, not from anything granted him by the colonial authorities.

You've drifted off topic. Gandhi had no power to change British attitudes towards India; he was not a member of British society and had few rights within it.

You are correct that Gandhi was able to motivate his followers. But he used them to inspire change in a culture he *didn't* belong to, by putting that culture in a position where it was forced to either acknowledge the Indians' right to self-determination, or commit atrocities it couldn't bring itself to commit. He shook the British Empire out of its oppressively paternalistic mentality by forcing it to choose between freedom and brutal oppression. Gandhi also attempted to change Indian society itself, but he wasn't very successful at doing so -- the country is still torn by the class, ethnic, and religious strife he spoke against.

If there is any truth to the idea that Islam has the potential for peace, then the Pope's appeal to reasonable dialogue between Muslims and Catholics must resonate with those Muslims most open to such ideas.

But maybe you're right. Maybe Islam needs Muslim leaders to lead it into the 21st century. That doesn't change the fact that no such leaders exist, though.

They were mere followers, reacting to something bigger than themselves, same as the American politicians and public who began listening to Dr. King and the movement he led.

That's simply ahistorical. King and the movement he led represented a tiny minority of Americans with no real power. He succeeded by appealing to the nobility and sense of fairness of the white society that DID have power -- a society he was excluded from. He didn't force change; he *convinced* his oppressors to change of their own free will.

Derve said...

He didn't force change; he *convinced* his oppressors to change of their own free will.

Bingo! And therein lies the power. "Experiments with truth." Dr. King studied Gandhi's methods, and imitated his success. Don't confuse size, or fancy titles and perks, with transforming power. The "exclusion" just forced the power to come from a different source.

That doesn't change the fact that no such leaders exist, though.
Before they emerge, that line has been used before and will be used again. Have faith, man.

Revenant said...

Dr. King studied Gandhi's methods, and imitated his success. Don't confuse size, or fancy titles and perks, with transforming power. The "exclusion" just forced the power to come from a different source.

You've lost me, I'm afraid. You appear to be conceding that King and Gandhi were outsiders with regard to the societies they were trying to change, which would mean that I was correct in using them as examples of outsiders changing a society.

"That doesn't change the fact that no such leaders exist, though."

Before they emerge, that line has been used before and will be used again. Have faith, man

Um, if you're conceding that no such leaders exist, then why did you argue that Muslim leaders were better-placed than the Pope to encourage change within Islam? Whatever you think of the Pope's influence, he at least has the advantage of actually existing. That some hypothetical Muslim might one day help improve matters doesn't really do us any good here and now.

As for taking it on faith that Islam will change from within -- Islam has been barbaric for over a thousand years, and I refuse to take it on faith that it will miraculously transform itself into something decent and humane without outside pressure. No other religion ever has.

EliRabett said...

Hitchens didn't like mother Teresa, he didn't like the last pope, the pope before that, this pope, John Kerry, John Kennedy etc.

Why are you all acting surprised?

Revenant said...

Hitchens didn't like mother Teresa, he didn't like the last pope, the pope before that, this pope, John Kerry, John Kennedy etc

Are you implying that Hitchens disliked Kennedy and Kerry because they were Catholic?