Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The (last) pope got something right...

(originally 2006)

Now I didn't have much time for Pope Benedict XVI, as I am an atheist and oppose the church's obsession with controlling people's bodies, its fundamental sexism and inability to adequately confront those of its employees who have violently and sexually abused many. 

However, the Pope is a powerful man, one of the most important in Christianity. For all of the flaws of Christianity, precious few Christians engage in violence to gain converts - while many may be offended by media and statements that attack the religion, very few engage in angry rampages of violence and there are precious few examples of modern day Christian militia out to do violence (though they are not unknown in Africa). The time for that is past.

His speech at the University of Regensburg in 2006 has upset Muslims across the world - they are, matching the stereotype that is hardening in the non-Muslim world, by protesting angrily, making anti-American and anti-Israeli statements, burning effigies of the Pope - in other words, acting like uncivilised, brutalised deranged thugs.  Criticism is not taken as a reason to offer rhetoric or reason in return, but anger and violence.

They have acted exactly the way that the Pope rejected. In his speech he said:

"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… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death"

It is a lesson many Christians have taken, but which far too many Muslims have not.  They seek to enforce their religion with threats and violence, treating the mind as irrelevant, not seeking to convince with arguments based on merits, but on fear.

That is the fundamental difference today, that is oft-ignored by all too many, especially on the so-called progressive left.

In many Muslim countries, choosing to reject Islam (which you are assumed to have been born with) is a crime.  The last known execution for heresy of a Christian was in 1826 in Spain.  No non-Muslim majority countries have laws restricting religion.

So when Muslims wonder why their religion appears "singled out", then they need only look at the behaviour of their fellow believers. 

It isn't Christians, Jews or atheists that people fear waging violence int he name of religion. It isn't apparent in most Muslim countries that there is tolerance for those of other religions or no religion.

Anyone who thinks that the appropriate response to those who don't share their views is to threaten them with violence, is uncivilised and barbaric.  

Unfortunately for Muslims, it is people of their religion who far too often undertake this behaviour.  

They have every right to hold uncivilised barbaric views of others, but when they cross the line to threaten violence against those they disagree with, they should reasonably expect the full force of the law.

The right to religion is a right to practice your own beliefs - it is not a right to force others to submit to them, or to protect you from being offended.

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