The Pope and Islam

In the midst of a lecture (read it all here), Pope Benedict commented:

“In the seventh conversation…the emperor [the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both] touches on the theme of the 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 on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Muhammad 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. “God,” he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.”

What happened?

1. It is broadcast around the world that the Pope slandered Islam and the Pope issues a swift apology.

2. People get mad based on the news report.

I thought the Pope tried to be very charitable to Islam. Read the first few sentences of the first paragraph, and you can see he’s dancing around controversy.

Oh, and that little thing about Mohammed preaching the spread of his faith by the sword . . . Well, that’s a tough one.

Granted, everyone is going to repeat this without presenting the full context of the speech (there is the link at the top of this post to that), but it seems like Pope Benedict has hit on a thorny issue.

Most would agree that religion should not be spread via violence. The odd thing is that Christians have the Bible that advocates justice and peace, and we’ve backed some of the worst violence in history.

Both religions have been used to justify violence in both the past and present. Yet I’m not sure what how the Pope can back peddle out of this one.

Read more about Islam and violence: link 1.

4 thoughts on “The Pope and Islam

  1. Robert Landbeck

    For a church that launched the crusades and the inquisition, any criticism of Islam and violence is like the pot calling the kettle black. Christianity has yet to put it’s own house in order, if that is even possible?

  2. N. Andrews

    I think that the time was not appropriate to discuss and talk about that subject. The Pope chooses the wrong time. Even though he did not mean to insult Islam, but people took a sentence out of context. There was misunderstanding, and that what caused the problem. However, the Muslim reaction was not acceptable, and it only proved that Islam is for violence. Muslims need to learn to tolerate and accept criticism. Other people and religions criticize and accuse the Catholic Church and Christianity too, but Catholics always accept that. Therefore, other religions need to accept that too. We all need to learn to listen and accept criticism, and defend our point by discussion and reason.

  3. nickserkes

    your news broadcast on 9/18/06 cbs featured a woman who wrote a book about the pope and islam. what is the name and publisher? why is it not featured on the internet? (perhaps I am too dumb to find it). Nick Serkes

  4. Ed Post author

    You lost me Nick. "My" news broadcast? Do you have a link to the broadcast you’re referring to? I only have links to the BBC.

    In following up on the other comments, I heard an interesting commentary on NPR yesterday where Joe Loconte said:
    "A more generous approach to the issue of religious freedom is to describe how both Islam and Christianity have succumbed to irrationality." http://www.npr.org/template

    The one difference between Christianity and Islam when it comes to violence is how they began. Muhammed was fighting for his life until he conquered Mecca, Jesus made his followers drop their swords. That doesn’t mean that Jesus’ followers have not picked up the sword since, but both religions did start in a very different way.

    Whatever the case may be, I think Loconte’s commentary advocates a positive way forward for both sides.

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