Authored on a Sabbatical Friday towards Sunday, September 23, 2006.
• The Vatican has become a good public relation machine. They learned well from those whom they persecuted cruelly and killed cruelly in the Middle Ages: Thinkers, scientists, technologists, artists, athletes, entertainers. The Vatican released this material:
The lecture would have been forgotten the very next hour after its conclusion. The reasoning humans in the Western world are already fed up with the attempts of the Church to keep its place in the civilization. The (un)holy church did her best to destroy Reason not long ago. Now, they ask for forgiveness. What the Vatican did to Galileo was wrong, the Vatican said - and asked for forgiveness! How convenient!
For all intents and purposes, the Church is dead right in the place where it was born: Western Europe. It is still barely alive in Eastern Europe, and only because of the forbidden-fruit and curiosity effects. Communism, a religion sui generis, smothered traditional (especially Christian) religion during its era in power. People in the new free democracies simply wanted to experience traditional religion in a non-restrictive form. Even thick Communists like the late Russian president Yeltsyn and the former KGB agent Putin (KGB was the epitome of anti-traditional-religion crusader) got curious enough to get their feet wet in that baptizing silver bathtub in that old Orthodox unheated church. My parents did it to me in early March, when there still was snow on the ground. My sister got a worse deal, since she was born in late January. Those who didn't baptize their babies were harshly stigmatized by their communities! Seemingly now, even the Eastern Europeans got sick and tired with religion.
The British seem to be the most religious people in Western Europe (perhaps because they have two major Christian religions available, plus Islam, plus Hinduism). Yet, only around 5% of the Britons go to church regularly (other places of worship are a little more frequented). By contrast, almost 50% of the US Americans go to church regularly, especially every Sunday. The Canadians are a whole lot more like the Christian Britons (and not only because of being a British dominion). Canada is the most western part of European culture, although it strikingly resembles the economic model of the United States.
One can paradoxically argue with a high degree of success that USA is the Islamic nation of the Western civilization. Religion (albeit Christianity) has an unusually strong presence, including politics and especially the White House. Women in many American locales will not vote for a woman only because the candidate is a woman, regardless how bright and skillful the candidate is. A woman must not be in politics, but at home, cooking for her man and doing the (dirty) laundry. The political candidates implicitly swear that they are Christian believers in all truthfulness. The media would chase the candidates down to the ground to hear the "I am a (Christian) faithful believer" oath.
"Yes," them candidates would declare solemnly and loudly, "God of the Old Bible created the world in seven days, some five thousand and four score years ago."
During the year of a presidential electoral campaign, the U.S. media would assume the forgotten role of Torquemadas (Inquisitors) and witch-hunters. And thus one can paradoxically argue with a high degree of certainty that the President is the Supreme Ayatollah of ISA (Islamic States of America).
The implication would be that the Pope loves America, because of its religious fervor! NON! In fact, the popes hate USA, because of mixing its social democracy with the Christian doctrine. The Popes pull their hairs (if any left) when they hear that American women are priests (priestesses?), reverends (reverendae?), preachers (preacherae?), etc. Simultaneously, as to return the favor, most American Christians hate the Popes (Papae, when available, if ever?) The Christian Americans, who so vividly live in the religious past, cannot forget the cruel things that the powerful Popes did to Protestant Christians.
What surprised me was the reaction in the Islamic civilization. The hotheadedness typical to Middle Easterners erupted once again! The same violent reaction the Prophet Muhammad cartoons triggered in the winter of 2006. Once again, the Islamists shot themselves in the foot. They had a golden opportunity to deliver a … reasonable counterpunch. You can debate strongly without swinging the sword (or suicide-bomb dressing). Just swing the word!
The Pope only briefly makes a link between Islam and violence. The topic has a minor place in the whole lecture. The Pope refers to a possible conversation between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam in 1391.
I quote from Pope's lecture:
It was a bloody period in history as far as the Christians and the Muslims are concerned. Soon, in 1394 the Muslim Turks would impose a cruel siege on Christian Constantinople. We can see the conversation between the emperor and the Islamic scholar this way. Two evils sat at the same table. One said: “I am the lesser of the two evils!” Who is it? I say, both equally.
There is no religion without evil. Intolerance is at the very foundation of religion. Early forms of religion consisted also of cruel rituals. The Mayans sacrificed many human beings in bloody rituals to appease their gods. Both Christianity and Islam can safely claim that they are lesser evils than the Maya. The Mayans too had some reason in their civilization: They were very knowledgeable astronomers!
If you read the Bible (plenty of web pages on the Internet), you'll come across a monumental number of passages full of cruelty and barbaric acts. Some of the cruel acts are conducted by God himself! You can read the Koran (Qur'an), too. I found an English translation of the Qur'an at the web site of the University of Virginia. I read a good part of Qur'an, especially the first four books (the most important ones).
The Koran is simply a digest of the Bible. Mohamed made a summary of the Bible for his fellow polytheistic Arabs of the 7th century CE. The religious texts can be viewed, from a social angle, as the most compelling constitutions of the old times. People would be more abiding by the laws presumably coming from god, than abiding the rules of a king. The Jews wrote their old Bible during the Babylonian captivity. The Persian emperor, the conqueror of Babylonia, released them. The Jews returned to Judea - and behaved like mad! The Persian emperor sent a wise Jew, Ezra, with the command to impose the old Bible as a strict constitution of the Jews!
The Koran itself can be interpreted as a strict constitution. In fact, the Koran is the oldest constitution still in effect today! Muhammad has little to say about the heavens. He is more interested how people live on Earth according to the laws in the old Bible. Mohamed also added laws of his own conception.
I can say this again: The old Bible is far more violent than the Koran. For one, the Qur'an is just a summary of the Bible! I looked for signs of violence in Muhammad's Book. I couldn't really find anything as cruel as some passages in the Bible. The way Muhammad's treats women is simply a following of the way women are treated in the Bible. The legendary Solomon “went into” about one thousand women. Mohamed writes poetically about the sexual act: “If the man went into his women he must wipe off his hands and face before prayer…”
The Islam is viewed as the most intolerant religion today. Muhammad had his own opinion on intolerance. It appears that he did not appreciate intolerance. Here are passages from the chapter known as “The Cow” (the most important part of the Koran):
"2.120: And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah's guidance, that is the (true) guidance. “
"2.135: And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrahim, the Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.”
But the Muslims became most intolerant in this regard. They are the most evil this day and age. Christians may change their religion without risking cruel consequences. In Islam, if a Muslim changes his religion, he is subject to the death penalty. It happened in the year of grace 2006 in Afghanistan, a nation under the control of the Christian Americans!
If persecution is graver than slaughter, then the Muslims believe it to be a virtue the decapitating of the Muslim who wanted to change his religion. Despite the fact that the Quran acknowledges tolerance and non-violence:
"2.84: And when We made a covenant with you: You shall not shed your blood and you shall not turn your people out of your cities; then you gave a promise while you witnessed.”
There are other passages, however, that would indicate the virtue of violence against the enemies:
"3.118: O you who believe! Do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people; they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still; indeed, We have made the communications clear to you, if you will understand. “
"3.151: We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because they set up with Allah that for which He has sent down no authority, and their abode is the fire, and evil is the abode of the unjust.”
I allotted a lot more space to the Koran than the Pope himself did (in his university lecture). I have the feeling that the Pope has never read the Quran entirely (far from thoroughly!) I had not read the Quran seriously before the September 2006 incident. We say many things without documenting our sayings. I doubt that many Muslim scholars have read the Bible. Virtually all Muslims are not aware that the Koran is a remake of the Bible.
His Eminence, The Magnificencent Pope BENEDICT XVI had no intention to offending Islam. The purpose of His Lecture aimed at significantly Higher. He wants the Church remain an important Part of the Western civilization. He is aware of one thing that people like me stress on any occasion.
The world we know today, with all its magnificent and eminent achievements, stands on the foundation of Reason. Reason (or Logos, as Pope referred to sometimes - and wrongly) is the Fruit of Ancient Greece, more specifically the Athenians. You ain't no Greek, BENEDICT XVI! But what you say sounds like Greek to Muslims!
"My magnificent Christian brothers and sisters, We, the Church, are Greeks, too. We worship Logos, like you. We only call it God. Forget about the Inquisition!"
The dialogue between that emperor and his Islamic interlocutor took place at a time when Reason was under death threats from the Inquisition (1391). Even Islam was closer to Reason than the Vatican at that time in history. Islam was superior to Christianity up until the age of the Renaissance. Even at that time (1391), I am not sure that the Church was the lesser of the two evils (compared to the Mosque). We would be today at least 500 hundred years more advanced, hadn't we had the divine blessing of the Inquisition!
What catapulted the Western world is not the Greek in the New Testament. It is not references to Socrates and Plato by the latter days Popes. It is Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle - ad litteram. It is simple geography: Athens is closer to Rome than it is to Mecca.
The mythical crucifixion of one Jesus did not make the European Christians the conquerors of the world. The Renaissance rediscovered the Reasoning of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The Classical Civilization liberated the Europeans from Christianity and religion in general. That Renaissance created a great (and powerful) civilization in Europe (and America later on). In order to be powerful, Reason needs detachment from the imperiously suffocating religion.
The Classical-founded civilization is no longer subjugated by the Christian doctrine or any other religion. The Church opposed the trend by the cruelest of the means. The Islamic civilization was more advanced (and powerful) than the Christian civilization at one point in history. Unfortunately, Islam has violently opposed the liberation of human subjects from the chains of religion. That's why Islam failed so miserably in human advancement. In case you didn't know, Islam means submission; subjugation, that is, that it is. A Muslim can say “I don't believe in Allah or any gods!” once and only once!
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