Pope Benedict XVI in his speech of September 12, 2006 quoted from a statement made during a dialogue around 1391CE between Manuel II Palaiologos and an unnamed Persian scholar. The Pope's speech was an attempt to open a discussion on the issue of “transcendence”. (2) It is also worth remembering that Manuel II's original writings were reportedly a reflection on the rise of Islam at a time when the Ottomans had conquered most of the Byzantine provinces, a situation that many may parallel to today’s apparent state of worldwide aggression. (Yes it is all about power)
Transcendence in this context is referring specifically to “the concept of divine transcendence [which] states that God is elevated above and extrinsic (outside or not belonging to) the universe that he created. In the Judeo - Christian tradition however, God is viewed as combining the apparent opposites of transcendence and immanence (permanently pervading in the universe) in that he both transcends the universe and is active in it. Traditional Christian philosophy treats God as transcendent only in the sense that he created the world; that he has perfect knowledge of all earthly things, which indeed derive from him and that he is infinite and eternal.” (3)
Islam by focusing only on God’s transcendence is [for its adherents] Islam’s ‘great strength’. Philosophically some would take the stance that it also becomes Islam’s greatest weakness because as a result of this view as a religion it can say little (or nothing) about human liberty and about how human choice affects the will of God. If ‘God’s transcendence’ is from the Islamic view irrefutable and final, how can God allow for human freedom? How can God permit human choice? It’s as though medieval Muslims imagined liberty to be a zero-sum game. If humans have it, God doesn’t. If God has it, humans don’t. It’s a philosophical problem they couldn’t resolve.
At that time in history Jewish, Christian, and Muslim writings thus divided, over the role of liberty and freedom in relations between God and man. So great is God that in the Islamic view he overpowers human liberty. This suggests a kind of determinism. What God knows and does is eternal and necessary and can’t be changed and no ‘individual will’, no knowledge of singulars or contingency, is possible to God. He doesn’t concern himself with things like us and you can’t talk about human beings as images of God. (4) A gross example if this is a ‘Palestinian’ father’s reaction to the murder of his daughter. Gaza - Hamas's ‘morality’ police shot and killed Azzami because she was seen picnicking on a beach with her fiancé and she, her fiancé and her younger sister wouldn’t stop their car on the way home to be questioned about it. The father’s statement; “it is the will of Allah”.
It would be reasonable to expect that with today’s troubled relations with the worlds religions (and liberal secular society), based on these opposing views of God and it’s/his/her relation to the world, that the Pope would go back to this period to set the basis for a much needed dialogue.
More quotes from the pope’s speech to put it all in context “on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the ‘truth’ of both”. It is wise here to understand here that truth is merely a singular view or perspective on reality and the reality of ‘God’ is probably unfathomable, or is that just my perspective?
The speech ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran… “In the seventh conversation the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that Sura (Koranic chapter) 2, 256 reads: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ According to the experts, this is one of the suras 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 (jihad)…”
Sura 9 as an example of later Islamic doctrine has many important verses to offer concerning jihad. The sura's main subject is the revocation of the immunity granted by God and Muhammad to those tribes that had not converted to Islam prior to this revelation. After the lifting of the pre-existing immunity, the Muslims from this point must fight the unbelievers:
(9:5) - This verse, is one of the most important verses on the subject of jihad. It is usually called the "Verse of the Sword" and is said to abrogate all other verses in the Qur'an on the subject of war and peace. While its immediate subject is the pagan Arabs— a narrow application sustained by early commentators—later Muslim jurists would use the verse to proclaim a universal jihad against all non-Muslims. Sura 9 also deals extensively with social relations between believers and nonbelievers - again of decisive importance for the later development of Islam. According to 9:23–24, a Muslim should distance himself from his kin and friends if they persist in unbelief (see also 3:28, 4:139, 5:51, 57). This sura also establishes the paradigm of Muslim dominance over Jews and Christians that would dictate the social system of Islam for centuries to come. (5)
Back to the speech… “He, [Manuel II] addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence, 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, having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain 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… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons, or any other means of threatening a person with death… The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. Professor Theodore Khoury (the original translator/editor) observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this is self-evident.’
“However for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?… John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, with logos. Logos means reason and word — reason that is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, between genuine enlightenment and religion… This inner rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history…” (6)
A ‘modern’ secular or humanistic worldview considers and supports an approach to the situation/problem using a philosophy based on the need for the psychological growth of people who are basically well adjusted. In particular, the area now known as ‘Humanistic Psychology’ has most thoroughly incorporated this attitude of the possibility for human actualisation into its practice. A classic presentation of these ideas is embodied in the following "hierarchy of needs" that was developed by the humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow.
Physiological (the basic or lowest level of… food, water, sex, sleep, shelter etc)
Self-Actualization (Maslow’s top level of existence)
Self-Transcendence (a new addition by later thinkers)
This belief or approach states that each need builds upon its more basic neighbours. So, needs for safety can be adequately met only after one has met one's physiological needs. Likewise, the wish to belong in a relation, a family, an organisation, a culture, or a society, necessarily requires that one has realised a level of safety. By adequately satisfying the demands of a level, we are more fully freed to pursue issues relating to higher levels of self-expression and communication. Self-esteem, the liking and acceptance of oneself by oneself, is a pivotal level in the enfoldment of human awareness. By believing in the basic goodness of ourselves, we can allow ourselves to grow and blossom. If we don't fundamentally accept our own spirit, then we shall have little cause to support activities that can help us. Once, the landmark of self-acceptance has been secured, a person can work to achieve interesting and meaningful goals. Such purposeful and consistent effort will, in time, be successful and result in self-actualisation, the shaping of one's life to accord with one's highest values and goals.
Humanistic Psychology substantially ends at the upper reaches of self-actualisation, a level that is assumed the summit of personal growth by most cultures. It is Transpersonal Psychology that continues this sequence by exploring what might lie beyond these socially constructed bounds. The subsequent level of self-transcendence encompasses the common mystical experiences of all the world's spiritual paths. Thus, these relatively new disciplines see the human saga as one of natural enfoldment - one which reaches from solely personal achievements of well-being and success through to transpersonal achievements of universal wisdom and compassion, spiritual insight, and enlightenment. (7)
With much of the Arab world still apparently locked in ‘basic needs’, ‘security’ and ‘belonging’ levels of Maslow’s hierarchy it is not hard to understand why the struggle for self esteem has become such a touchy area and why there is little widespread activity in the upper two levels of development. I guess the repressive regimes that govern much of the region (an the greater Muslim world), together with their parent - child relationship (rather than adult to adult) tribal based cultural norms, a long struggle is inevitable. With a fair percentage of the population either badly educated through the imposition of rote learning, plus a systematic insistence on not questioning, just follow the prophets 1400 year old teachings and all will be OK attitude, it is hard to see a way out of this mess.
A symptom of the problem from the ‘religion of peace’ and what is becoming the ‘religion of constant outrage’… yet again
Apparently cleric, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin (Somalia) urged Muslims at September 15th’s Friday prayers urged the faithful to find the pontiff and punish him for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and Allah and has called for Muslims to "hunt down" and kill Pope Benedict XVI for his controversial comments about Islam; "Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim," – Malin 15/9/06 (8)
From Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam… "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence." – huh what…!?
Muslim activists burnt an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI during a protest in Srinagar, India.
Iraq - A statement posted at mosques in Anbar province, a centre of the insurgency, warned that a previously unknown group would begin killing Iraqi Christians in three days unless the pope apologized. In Basra, a bomb exploded at the Assyrian Catholic Church on Friday evening. (9)
Palestine – Fire bombings left black scorch marks on the walls and windows of Nablus' Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches. At least five firebombs hit the Anglican Church and its door was later set ablaze. (10)
Another peaceful stance "We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life," said the message posted in the name of the Mujahedeen Army on a Web site frequently used by militant groups. They go on… "our minds will not rest until we shake your thrones and break your crosses in your home." (11)
Is the Pope naïve and stupid or shrewd and calculating?
Who knows, however if the top Catholic god botherer is naïve and stupid should he be the pope? If he is shrewd and calculating he certainly seems to have successfully contributed to the speeding up of the timetable to more open conflict and the much vaunted “Clash of Civilizations”.
Imagine – John Lennon
“Imagine there's no Heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people, Living for today
Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will live as one
John Lennon, definitely not in ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell’ however obviously resident in the minds of the peaceful few left on earth.”
Perhaps its time for rational thinkers to form an armed group and take on these irresponsible fools that continue to mess up the world and threaten our children’s future. Unfortunately the concept of a ‘rational suicide bomber’ is irrational and therefore it would be a philosophically self defeating exercise so we have to find another way.
Its time to insist that the UN starts to be more active in promoting its resolutions on the 'rights of the child' and for as many as possible of us to be continually selling, telling and yelling… “Hey preacher, leave those kids alone”