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The Best Way to Diffuse Religious Fundementalism is:
To critique religion in relatively obsure journals. 0
To engage in a campaign to ridicule religion and/or religious believers (sometimes disguised as protecting Western Free-Speech Rights). 0
To Ignore the Fundementalists unless they become political or violent. 0
To Gain an Understanding of the Socio-Political-Economic causes for Religious Extremism and do something about those Greater "Evils" 1
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Pope insults Islam.. What makes him so different?
Posted: 15 September 2006 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A story broke today that the new Pope (whom many rightly point to as a radical conservative who has a Nazi background) - by choosing a particular segment of a 500 year old text to attack non-believers and Islam - has insulted Muslims around the globe - see article here: http://articles.news.aol.com/news/_a/popes-remarks-on-muslims-draw-outrage/20060915051209990007?_ccc=4&cid=842.

Some of what the Pope read included this line: [i:a83af3b49b]"He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached…"’[/i:a83af3b49b]

It may be argued by humanists, and it [i:a83af3b49b]ought[/i:a83af3b49b] to be, that these comments from a leader of Christianity, no matter what we may think of his legitimacy to speak of such "truths." or of the "faith" in which he represents, is damaging to the current situation of the world today - a world where a U.S. President has referred to the illegal and terrorist invasion and occupation of Iraq and his entire "war on terror" as a "Crusade" against Islamic "terrorists" - and a blaring example of the dangers of religious fundementalism as the Pope - a catholic fundementalist of the Mel Gibson variety - tries to distance the insanity of fundementalist Christianity from the insanity of fundementalist Islam.

That said, humanists ought to articulate today’s crisis in the Middle East as scientifically and cosmopolitanistic as possible.  It is not humanistic to merely echo the Pope’s - or those he admire’s - unsophisticated position(s) on Islam as many atheists have done with regard to their oversimplified criticisms of the Islamic world.  Criticism of all religious fundamentalisms must be heard and discussed by all looking toward a humanistic future, but it must be done while understanding all the historical precedents leading up to today’s crisis.

Here is noted atheist, Sam Harris, on Islam: "The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center.  In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history ... the Muslim world is utterly deranged by its religious tribalism."

Much more humanistic than the Pope’s comments, right?  Hmmm.

Harris is not alone, and though his writings are often hailed as heroic by some humanists and their journalistic venues, he does not self-identify as a humanist.  This is a good thing, and other such misguided atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Tibor Machan, Ibn Warraq and Tom Flynn ought not either for similar reasons!

It is far more humanistic, then, to articulate for the public ALL of the factors involved in the current situation such as the West’s role in propping up and supporting radical Islamic regimes for more than half a century in the Middle East as it seeks to steal or regulate the natural resources found there and militarize the area toward both political and economic hegemony.  When this and other analyses are ignored, or even dismissed, by self identifying humanists or in humanist journals (as they often are), and religion is touted as THE cause of all that is evil (though it certainly aids ‘evil doers’ from bin Laden to George W. Bush), not only is humanism debased, but the world then has a legitimate difficulty separating the atheist/humanist "message" from the current Pope’s.


Barry F. Seidman

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Posted: 15 September 2006 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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How true.

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 16 September 2006 02:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Re: Pope insults Islam.. What makes him so different?

Hi Barry,

I am in complete agreement with your opinions.

I think it is crazy that the Pope, a world statesman that yields so much power and influence, could make such blatant , irresponsible statement about Muslims, publicly or privately.

It is even more astonishing if you compare the history of Christianity and Islam and you will realise that both religions are responsible for gross violations against human beings, and in many respects Christianity was the bigger culprit.

For the Pope to pretend that Christians were the GOOD GUYS and Muslims the BAD GUYS is not only offensive to Muslims it is offensive to humanist as well.

However, although I agree with you when you quoted Sam Harris

[quote author=“Barry”]

Here is noted atheist, Sam Harris, on Islam: “The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center.  In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history ... the Muslim world is utterly deranged by its religious tribalism.”

Much more humanistic than the Pope’s comments, right?  Hmmm.

is disagree that Sam Harris quote is equivalent to the Pope.

The Popes quote will lead to the deaths of many Muslim and Christians in riots that are bound to follow his remarks, whereas Muslim’s will discard Sam Harris’s comments as just another ranting of an anti -Islamist.

I think all humanist should make it known that the comments of the Pope does not contribute to world PEACE and HARMONY and I support you here Barry!

Fayzal Mahamed

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Posted: 16 September 2006 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Sam Harris is no Pope!

Fayzal:

I agree with you completely, of course.  The Pope is the person who is dangerous here, and all humanists SHOULD decry his comments - as you said - especially with the history (and present) of Christainity!

As for Harris, to the world he may be insignificant, but re humanists everywhere, he must be “called out” lest folks think just any ole atheist can be a humanist.

Barry

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Posted: 18 September 2006 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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OK, I wasn’t going to weigh in on this one, because I hadn’t read the actual speech, but it was just sent to me by a friend.

Here is the text of the speech .

I am no friend of this Pope, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the quote was taken out of context. Here is more of the context:

In the seventh conversation ... edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor [Manuel II Paleologus] touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

It seems pretty clear to me that the Pope felt that the quote by Manuel II Paleologus was overly strong. So what point was he trying to make with it?

Reading the whole speech, the reference to violence in Islam was far from its focus, which was really about the relation between reason, science and religious faith. As he says,

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.

So the Pope wants to establish the relation between reason and God’s nature. (And in all fairness, he does so in opposition to a Muslim notion of a God that transcends reason). But then he gets into trouble. On the one hand he says that religious faith must follow the dictates of reason, but on the other hand he says that reason (and “science”) would restrict the orbit of that faith in a way that is unacceptable to a believer. So he suggests “broadening our concept of reason and its application,” since “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.” (He presumably means that using our reason would make dialogue with believers difficult).

So, in sum, he finds that reason is part of God’s nature, but when it is used, we cease to be believers; so we must “broaden” the concept of reason, presumably to allow for conclusions which would otherwise be considered unreasonable or unscientific.

Of course, if we are going to allow this move in order to board the Pope’s chosen passengers, the same move can be used to board those who prefer conversion by violence.

So the argument doesn’t come close to working.

But let me just repeat the irony here. The irony here is that the play of the Pope’s speech is that he made a vicious attack on Islam. That he did not do, although he did criticize conversion by violence. The Pope’s real aim was once again to attack us, that is, secular humanists who use reason and scientific results to critique or debunk religon.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 06:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Pope’s "real" intentions

Doug:

I agree that the Pope’s penultimate quest was/is toward praising faith over reason - no matter his superficial comments about using science in a way we humanists do - and it is clear that the lines he spoke came from ancient texts. 

Seems to me though, that he chose that text for more than one reason (to attack secular humanists), but he did so also to attack Islam and Muslims (much like the Dutch newspaper editors and others today). 

He certainly could have used many other texts if his “real” goal was just to defend faith over atheistic-science.  There are many of these to go around!  But he chose THIS quote which is not surprising to me, and I doubt it is surprising to you!

Barry

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Posted: 18 September 2006 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Right, well, it seems to me the Pope was trying to basically position the Catholic church in between Islam on the one hand (who believe in a god that doesn’t command rationality), and us rational humanists (who believe that the scope of reason doesn’t include god or religion).

And he was certainly tone-deaf to the political realities nowadays by choosing such an inflammatory quote.

But I expect that the response surprised him because in context the Pope did make it clear that he felt the quote at issue was too strong.

Of course, it would have been better for him to have chosen a different quote altogether ...

But certainly, part of what the Pope was doing was criticizing Islam for (1) ‘conversions by force’, i.e. violence in the name of god, (2) positing a god who was not rational. These may be criticisms, but aren’t anywhere near as inflammatory as the quote would suggest, and they leave open the possibility of dialogue with moderate muslims.

The problem nowadays is that it seems literally impossible to publicly criticize Islam. Doing so causes riots, deaths and death threats. Which means, basically, that the world is being kept hostage by violent extremists.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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More on Pope

Doug Said: The problem nowadays is that it seems literally impossible to publicly criticize Islam. Doing so causes riots, deaths and death threats. Which means, basically, that the world is being kept hostage by violent extremists.

This is a key question Doug, and you are correct in that such critique has become dangerous to engage in, even if such critique does not stem from from a leading Christain or a Right-Wing racist newspaper. 

But the NEXT question then has to be “how did we get to this place?” 

I think religion has very little to do with the answer to this question, and politics and economics have a lot more to offer toward a cogent answer.

The world is REALLY being held hostage by Western Imperialism, Hegonomy, and Neo-Liberal Capitalism.

Barry

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Posted: 18 September 2006 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Re: More on Pope

[quote author=“Barry”]But the NEXT question then has to be “how did we get to this place?” 

I think religion has very little to do with the answer to this question, and politics and economics have a lot more to offer toward a cogent answer.

The world is REALLY being held hostage by Western Imperialism, Hegonomy, and Neo-Liberal Capitalism.

Well, I don’t think you and I see entirely eye-to-eye on this one ...

:wink:

I certainly agree that part of the reason of “how we got to this place” has to do with the incompetent and dangerous policies of the Bush government. They have clearly worked to exacerbate an already delicate situation.

And certainly, the west has done some very bad things to Islam, starting with the Crusades.

But at least for now we do have freedom of speech here, and freedom to criticize Christian and other religions. To that extent, Islam is the “odd man out” ... and there is more than a grain of truth to the notion that Islam has bloody borders.

This is a very complex and many-faceted issue. Some of the blame does belong squarely on the west, but a lot of it also belongs to Islam itself, to its radical elements and to its more moderate elements who seem unwilling to confront the radicals.

But that said, the only issue I wish to raise here is that it is impossible now to publicly criticize Islam. And that should be an unacceptable state of affairs to anyone interested in fostering an enlightenment-inspired philosophy. The number one value of the enlightenment is the value we give to the ability, the necessity, of open dialogue and criticism.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Re: More on Pope

[quote author=“dougsmith”]But that said, the only issue I wish to raise here is that it is impossible now to publicly criticize Islam. And that should be an unacceptable state of affairs to anyone interested in fostering an enlightenment-inspired philosophy. The number one value of the enlightenment is the value we give to the ability, the necessity, of open dialogue and criticism.

I completely agree with you Doug. I think when I first heard the Pope’s quote out of context my knee jerk reaction was to “We have a crazy Pope”.

However I must still ask “Why would a world statesman such as the Pope use that particular forum to discuss a discourse on the excesses of violence of Islam vis-a-vis Secularism.” Surely if he wanted to engage Muslims to this topic there were many appropriate forums to discuss such issues with Muslims so that a common stand can be taken to fight terrorism.

I am suspicious that there is far more to this story than what meets the eye! and I think the Pope had some ulterior motive for broaching this subject in the manner he did.

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Fayzal Mahamed,
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Posted: 19 September 2006 12:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Re: More on Pope

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]However I must still ask “Why would a world statesman such as the Pope use that particular forum to discuss a discourse on the excesses of violence of Islam vis-a-vis Secularism.” Surely if he wanted to engage Muslims to this topic there were many appropriate forums to discuss such issues with Muslims so that a common stand can be taken to fight terrorism.

I am suspicious that there is far more to this story than what meets the eye! and I think the Pope had some ulterior motive for broaching this subject in the manner he did.

Possibly so, Fayzal. Lordy knows, the Vatican works in mysterious ways. But reading the speech through, it seems that he wasn’t so much talking to Islam as to the secular west—saying that science and rationality had to leave room for Catholic christianity, basically. This is a topic near and dear to this Pope’s heart.

So in that context, I think the stuff about Islam was not intended to be the focus of the speech, but rather to set the stage for his renewed attack on faithless science.

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Posted: 19 September 2006 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Fayzal is correct

Fayzal is right, Doug.

And yes, I would not be surprised when this Pope moves beyond attacking Muslims to attacking secularists, Jews, Hindus, and even communists, socialists, anarchists, and liberal christains!

Barry

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Posted: 19 September 2006 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I am more in agreement with Doug on this one…  Given the entire context of the quote (thanks for that!), I am inclined to believe that the tone of his speech was primarily academic and he was merely addressing the issues at hand, namely, reason and its relationship to religion.  Now of course, singling out Islam as a violent religion is unfair (the Pope’s own predecessors can attest to just how violent Christianity can get), but I wouldn’t even go as far as to say that he should have chosen a different quote or only appeased Islam.  Violence is indeed a HUGE problem with Islam right now, so such a surprised reaction to a centuries-old QUOTE insinuating that Islam may be violent is fairly ridiculous. 

I would argue that the real problems here are (1) the fact that the Pope’s opinion and words are so darn important to people in the first place, and (2) that so many Muslims are so sensitive toward criticism or even mention of their prophet in an improper tone. 

And on another note, Barry, polls should be POLLS, not rhetorical devices to frame an issue.  There’s always only one reasonable answer to your polls, I feel like I’m reading a congressmen’s “constituent survey” - Are you for or against properly arming our troops for the War on Terror?  :?

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Posted: 19 September 2006 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Popes and Polls

Holy Avenger said: I would argue that the real problems here are (1) the fact that the Pope’s opinion and words are so darn important to people in the first place, and (2) that so many Muslims are so sensitive toward criticism or even mention of their prophet in an improper tone.

And on another note, Barry, polls should be POLLS, not rhetorical devices to frame an issue. There’s always only one reasonable answer to your polls, I feel like I’m reading a congressmen’s “constituent survey” - Are you for or against properly arming our troops for the War on Terror?

Dear Holy, or Mr. Avenger?

Not cited in your quote above, you say one of two choices open to the Pope was apeasement.  Actually, this is silly because the Pope should stick to Christainity in his talks (it’s nonsensical enough!), but even if he wanted to talk about violence, he need not talk about the violence of Islam when the real truth is that we are seeing a violence of a ‘people’ for mainly secular reasons, not of a religion.  More people, in history and today, USE religion to justify to themselves, and others, that their agressive or desperate deeds are moral, than they DO such deeds BECAUSE of their religion - though the latter can aid violence once it has begun.

Now, your quote above…

First, yes, the Pope’s words should mean no more than any other ‘special interest’ - as the Right would call such - leaders’.  But, alast, they do.

But the Muslims are more angry at the West’s (and Christaindom’s) behaviour toward them over the last several hunderd years, than about the “blaspheme” of mocking Mohammad.  The cartoons the Dens so happily printed to provoke, were printed in Egypt months earlier to no fanfare whatsoever.  This was not because Egypt is not a Muslim or “Arab” country, but because Denmark is a bigoted Western one, and because the Dens refused to talk with any Muslim Leaders about this issue.  You may want to listen to ETFF’s 9/10/06 interview with Larry Pintak at the WBAI archives on line to learn more from a white American living and teaching in Egypt.

As for the polling, it is not clear to me that my questions are ‘rigged’ so that only one answer would be the only right one, because I know many (and some at CFI) who in this poll, would pick #1 or #2 if they were to be honest (because this is what they believe is right), and some on the Left who would pick #3.  Sam Harris, Chris Hitchens and Tom Flynn would no doubt choose #2 and word it as if it was a good thing! 

I was making a point, Holy.

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Posted: 19 September 2006 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Re: Popes and Polls

[quote author=“Barry”]But the Muslims are more angry at the West’s (and Christaindom’s) behaviour toward them over the last several hunderd years, than about the “blaspheme” of mocking Mohammad.  The cartoons the Dens so happily printed to provoke, were printed in Egypt months earlier to no fanfare whatsoever.  This was not because Egypt is not a Muslim or “Arab” country, but because Denmark is a bigoted Western one, and because the Dens refused to talk with any Muslim Leaders about this issue.

Barry, you are certainly correct that the Muslim world is angry at a long litany of mistreatment from the west, just as is the west angry at a litany of Muslim aggression. However, whatever the facts of the case, I think we should strive to avoid calling an entire country “bigoted”. It is certainly an unjust characterization.

[quote author=“Barry”]As for the polling, it is not clear to me that my questions are ‘rigged’ so that only one answer would be the only right one, because I know many (and some at CFI) who in this poll, would pick #1 or #2 if they were to be honest (because this is what they believe is right), and some on the Left who would pick #3.  Sam Harris, Chris Hitchens and Tom Flynn would no doubt choose #2 and word it as if it was a good thing! 

I was making a point, Holy.

I think they’re called “ push polls ”, HolyAvenger ...

:wink:

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Posted: 19 September 2006 04:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Bigots countries?

Doug said: I think we should strive to avoid calling an entire country “bigoted”. It is certainly an unjust characterization.


Actually, you are correct.  All I know is that either the editors or the publisher of the Den newspaper were racists, not the entire Den people.  However, I would love to know how many anti-imigrant whites in Demark complain about the Muslims living in “their” country such as is quite prevalant among whites in America who complain about Mexicans living or working in Texas (which was stolen from them, after all, by whites), in the racist imagration debates in this western country.  I hate to think that “western,” in this negative sense, means white.. but it is what it is.

PS: The Westerners being angry about Muslim attacks on the West - as compared to the reverse - is as silly (and pathetic) as NY Yankees fans being angry that the NY Mets beat them to a title this year (only so much more serious, of course).

Barry

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