Pen as Sword - Social Commentary

Which side are we on? The side of reason or the side of violent intimidation?

Quote from the middle of:

“At the University of Regensburg, nearly a decade ago, Pope Benedict XVI touched on this issue in its theological dimension. He cited a fourteenth-century dialogue, between a Byzantine emperor and an educated Persian, conducted in a series of twenty-six parts. (He had been reading it in a recent scholarly edition, in the original Greek.) The quote, of Manuel II Palaiologos, shorn from context and falsely attributed to Benedict himself, was the occasion of much controversy. Here it is, with its more immediate context:

“In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that Surah 2, verse 256 reads: ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion.’ According to the experts, this is one of the surahs of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning 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 — a brusqueness that we find unacceptable today — on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only bad and inhumane, 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.”

Two generations after this dialogue was written, Constantinople itself — the last bastion of Eastern Christendom — fell under the Islamic sword. Note also that the response to the rational argument of a fourteenth-century Christian, was violent demonstrations in many twenty-first century Muslim cities. Note also, however, that the Pope’s address led to many interesting and reasonable responses from learned imams and other intellectuals, from across the contemporary Islamic world: who noted that the Pope had called for a dialogue between religions, based on reason not intimidation. (Unfortunately this little-reported, rather promising dialogue expired with his papacy.)

Which side are we on? The side of reason or the side of violent intimidation?”

For those with eyes to see; hearing not drowned out by their own screaming …









Disclaimer for nitpickers: We take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately



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