The Pope vs. Islam . . . Me vs. Religion
Let me start by saying that I am not a Catholic and therefore have never given much stock to what the Pope says. However, I do understand that he holds one of the most powerful positions in Europe and has great influence over millions of Christians throughout the world. So by virtue of having that power people listen when Pope Benedict XVI speaks, Christians and non-Christians alike, as was illustrated when he gave a recent speech at the University of Regensburg in Germany.
The address was entitled "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections," and was, according to the Pope, meant to open an inter-faith dialogue, but instead of speaking people are rioting, burning down churches and there is suspicion that outrage in Somalia over the Pope's words may have contributed to the murder of an Italian nun doing missionary work in that country.
You see, the Pope was discussing the idea that spreading faith through the use of violence, ie holy wars and Jihad, goes against God's will and is therefore not sanctioned, if you will, by God. All right, I'm with him there.
Then he gets into some trouble.
The Pope made a reference to a medieval Byzantine Emperor who was according to him "an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both." Pope Benedict XVI then goes on to quote the emperor who said,
"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."
"...Evil and inhuman," now why would anyone be offended by that?
The Pope has since come forward and "apologized" in saying,
"I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address . . . These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address . . ."
Now, it is interesting to note here that while Pope Benedict XVI felt it pertinent to quote a medieval emperor who painted Islam as evil and spreading its faith by the sword, he did not mention a series of holy wars perpetrated by Christians known as The Crusades which happened to occur during the same medieval time period. Hmmm . . . I wonder why he didn't mention that?
But this is all a bit superfluous; my real problem is not with the Pope (at least we got to see his real character and not just the polished, holy image that is created for him by the Catholic Church), but with religion itself.
To me this is just another example of how religion is not about unifying people in faith, in fact it's about doing the exact opposite - separating the believers from the non-believers, Christians from Muslims, Muslims from Jews, those who are going to heaven in the after life from those who will spend an eternity in hell.
It just so happens that this time people were offended by the blatant manner in which the statement was made. I mean, let's face it, Christians believe that non-Christians, no matter what religion they subscribe to, have it all wrong. They believe that non-Christians are living without the one true faith and wandering the Earth like lost sheep in search of their shepherd. And in turn, non-Christians believe the same thing about Christians. (Although I don't recall Jesus mentioning that those who do not believe are evil or inhuman.)
Those who subscribe to any faith are convinced that their way is the "right" way and when you're dealing with matters of eternal damnation or salvation, I guess tensions tend to rise. But does it really matter who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Do "people of faith" really care which of their fellow man have their souls saved and follow the way and the light and which ones don't?
Besides, how can you really argue at all? Believing in the existence of God cannot be proven true or false, so why get all worked up about it? Look at the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians - did it really begin because of religious conflict? Why can't we all choose to worship who we want or if we want to at all?
I just don't understand why religion causes such great tensions and sometimes even armed conflict. Violence seems to be in direct conflict with most religious teachings I am familiar with and, wait a minute, wasn't that what Pope Benedict XVI was getting at? And yet, we have rioting and possible murder. I'm thoroughly confused.
Meanwhile the world continues to fracture because "they" don't belong to our club and "those people" don't believe in Jesus and "those people over there" are really bad because they don't believe in any god at all! The fighting will continue over who worships the "right' god and who will be rewarded after death and who won't, who is sinful and who has been forgiven - and none of us will know who was right until it's too late anyway.
File Under: Religion News Catholicism World Conflict