Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Secularism? Ooohh, scary!!

Todays New York Times reports "Pope Assails Secularism, Adding Note on Jihad". In a mass at Regensburg in Germany on September 12, broaching the issue of the delicate relationship between Islam and the West, he reportedly said that "violence, embodied in the Muslim idea of jihad, or holy war, is contrary to reason and God’s plan, while the West was so beholden to reason that Islam could not understand it."

To be honest with you, I had a hard time getting past that first paragraph of the report. There are so many discrepancies right there. Let me look at the phrases, one at a time.
  • Violence... is contrary to reason: Indeed, very true. Violence never solves anything, it begets more violence, caught in a spiralling vortex till all participants are consumed. We don't have to look very far for evidence; the recent sanguinary conflict in the middle East, rioting and carnage in certain South-East Asian countries perpetrated in the name of religion or political causes, genocide in African countries - all fresh examples of mindless, irrational violence extracting a tremendous social, economic and psychological toll.

  • Violence, embodied in the Muslim idea of jihad, or holy war: Waitammminute! Muslim idea of 'Holy war'? His Holiness has never heard of the medieval Crusades? Holy wars justified by religious differences, sanctioned by the Papacy? The Just war theory that is traced back to St. Augustine of Hippo, that is in reality a contrived justification for aggression and imperialism? Is he closed to chapters of history identifying the repeated barbaric conflicts between the Crusading Christians and the Muslims, and the Crusaders' atrocities against Jews in various parts of Europe, and in Palestine and Syria, in what has come to be regarded a collective expresion of anti-Semitism?

    And at least, on the face of it, these Holy Wars, Crusades and the jihad, were to be waged between followers of discordant religions. What about the European Wars of Religion, fuelled by religious intolerance and extreme political ambition, where Catholics and Protestants engaged each other repeatedly in civil wars and military incursions?

    What face does His Holiness have to put the blame squarely on the shoulder of Muslims for the 'holy war'? Holy wars, the unholiest of events borne out of organized religion, do not follow any rational thought or embrace any constructive ideas, totally like the parent religions. There may be multiple and complex underlying causes, but these are undoubtedly fought primarily on religious grounds - as a means of expressing the faiths of the adversaries in the mode of comparison. "My religion is better than yours." And to this day, this is the central teaching of all major Western organized religions. All thoughtful insights, compassion, contemplation, service to mankind, self-abnegation are just hogwash. These are qualities of a good human being, to inculcate which no religious edict should be necessary, but those edicts are firmly put in place for these religions, no less in the ever-looming shadow of a vengeful, punitive deity and the constant warning of eternal retribution, because otherwise, how can the power over millions of lives be asserted?

  • While the West was so beholden to reason... : Muhuhuhuwahahaha! Yeah, right! Reason. Is there any evidence of it left in the West, indeed anywhere in the world? Do the religious, the faithful believe in reason? Hell, no! They have faith! Do, all over the world, they perceive any need or yearning for reason - these right-wing Christian apologists, proselytizing evangelists, creationists, believers of 'intelligent (divine) design', Islamic fundamentalists, radical Hindu jingoists, any follower of any organized, institutionalized religious creed or even a cult like Scientology? Each group is shouting its claim to the ownership and knowledge of "God's plan". A fine plan, no doubt, scuttling away countless lives of those supposedly created in God's own image!
The Papal speech "distilled many of Benedict’s longstanding concerns, about the crisis of faith among Christians and about Islam and its relationship to violence. And he used language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims, at a time of high tension among religions..." Does it come as any surprise? Fundamentally, he shares the same ground as a Qu'ran quoting, venom-spewing, fatwah-imposing Islamist cleric. Which is why "he devoted the rest (of his speech) to a long examination of how Western science and philosophy had divorced themselves from faith — leading to the secularization of European society that is at the heart of Benedict’s worries. This, he said, has closed off the West from a full understanding of reality, making it also impossible to talk with cultures for whom faith is fundamental."

'Secular' has been treated like a four-letter word. The Merriam Webster defines it as 'not overtly or specifically religious'. Wait! That's right! It's a danger to the maintenance of a creed-based hegemony. If secularism raises its head, people will no longer feel the need to adhere to a set of pretentious, dogmatic rules, and may actually acquire knowledge, embrace other cultures, spread goodwill, and - horror of horrors! - go on with their lives without the spectre of eternal perdition! How can this allowed?

Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, said that “the text reveals his deep mistrust regarding the aggressive side of Islam. Certainly he closes the door to an idea which was very dear to John Paul II — the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same God."
Very understandable from His Holiness' point of view, I suppose. This congregation of multiple organized religions, even if they theoretically stem from the same lore, is anathematic to his chosen agenda, which is imparting an essentially Catholic Christian fundamentalist outlook to everything. Which is why he dislikes secularism like hell; it does not find any consonance at all with his warped, myopic, unilateral world view. He cannot understand or believe that in order to be a good human being, it is not necessary to be force-fed dollops of religious mumbo-jumbo; a healthy, reasoning, secular outlook - free from the inherently restrictive pre-conditions of organized religions - can achieve a lot of good in this world.

He has sounded his take on atheism, too: "being afraid of God... is ultimately at the root of modern atheism," he said. "Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life."

Therefore, Prof. Myers and my fellow Pharyngulaphiles, His Holiness enjoins us to shun atheism in order to get a relief from the emptiness of our lives, by filling it up with as much rubbish as possible. You know what to do, don't you?

5 Comments:

Blogger geek goddess said...

I agree with your comparisons between Jihad and the crusades of the middle ages. The fact remains however, that the Western (predominantly) Christian world has gotten over its crusading habits at least overtly today. One hopes that Islam being a newer religion will also get to at least this stage eventually. Otherwise it is very true that any religion or any strong faith is a deterrent to logical reasoning and the Pope has contradicted himself, but then, the oldie is doing his job!

Tue Mar 18, 04:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jan Aquarius said...

You think Christianity has gotten over the crusading habits? I know you don't have cable... perhaps you can ask a friend to TiVo some daytime religious TV? You might be surprised...

Mon Mar 24, 02:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger kaustubh.adhikari said...

Dont try to understand HH's statements - we have better duties at hand

Tue Mar 25, 12:20:00 AM EDT  
Blogger kaustubh.adhikari said...

Shouldn't Mr. Bush's actions be described as crusades?

Tue Mar 25, 12:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger geek goddess said...

Baap re! Daggers are drawn I see. I have no intention of defending Bush or Christains or the Pope. Please note my use of the word "overt". Missionary activity which lures tribals and poor minorities to christianity could be called covert crusading perhaps. What I meant was there are no plane highjackings in the name of Jesus.

Regarding Bush. We seem to conveniently forget 9/11 was what led him into Islamic lands in the first place. The US is not a soft target like India which keeps getting hit from within and without and doles out rehab packages to terrorists. Once again, i am not defending dubya, but those who are call him a crusader need to find a word for Clinton who had no business attacking Serbia (an Orthodox christian nation) to "free" mainly-muslim Kosovo in 1998.

Tue Mar 25, 05:24:00 PM EDT  

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