Full transcript of the Pope's speech:http://www.guardian.co.uk/pope/story/0,,1873277,00.html
With all of the media attention paid to the Pope's remarks about Mohammad being a spreader of evil, many of the points of the Pope's speech were actually missed. Aside from the Pope's comments on Mohammad, however, the rest of the speech follows the typical Catholic line of argument, and things that have all been heard before by those who are familiar with such speeches, so perhaps the ignoring of the rest of the speech is to be expected. As is typical, the rest of the speech, titled Faith, reason and the university: memories and reflections, made the argument that, or course, the Catholic faith is the rock upon with reason rests, that Platonism is a part of the foundation of both Christianity and the scientific worldview, etc.
Aside from the statements about spreading faith by violence, which the Pope began his speech with, the rest of the speech makes the argument that religion should be spread by reason, and that lack of faith, is, indeed “unreasonable”. As is usual, the Church here misportrays reality, and twists the discussion to first their own agenda.
There are two issues to address here, which I will address in separate posts, first is the issue of spreading the faith by violence.
While the Pope was correct to point out the fact that Islam is a religion whose faith has been spread by violence, he was wrong to ignore the fact that both Judaism and Christianity were also spread by violence. In fact, all three of these religions have the same violent roots. Both Christianity and Islam are based on Judaism, from which they inherit their violent nature.
For the Pope to point out the violent past of Islam and then try to portray the Catholic Church as an institution of “reason and peace” is really quite a twisting of reality. Specifically, this is what the Pope had to say:
“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 on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed 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, 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... 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...".”
Here the Pope has portrayed violence as the Islamic was, and peaceful reason as the Catholic way, yet in reality Catholicism was spread and enforced upon the Roman Empire with many times more violence than has even been seen in the Islamic world. One of the most violent and destructive acts in human history prior to World War I and World War II was the establishment of Catholicism in the Roman world. The destruction in Greece was particularly appalling.
But, the problem is that the Catholic Church today has the seemingly impossible task of reforming itself into a “tolerant and pluralistic” faith. This is really a complete impossibility for any of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
All of these religions are founded on violence, intolerance, and exclusion. These are not faiths that were ever intended for an open pluralistic society, they are, in fact, designed to be just the opposite, they are faiths designed to conquer, subdue, and bring everyone under the same institutions.
Indeed the rise of Christianity marked the destruction of the previously existing open pluralistic and tolerant culture of the Roman Empire, where thousands of different religions existed, alongside many non-religious schools of philosophy. The reason that the Romans persecuted Christianity at first was because they feared its intolerance and single minded objective of the conversion and conquest of all people. They could see plainly that it stood for the end of their pluralistic way of life, and so they fought against it, resulting eventually in many civil wars that helped to bring destruction and ruin to the empire.
The same thing happened in Persia with the rise of Islam. Persia was once one of the most open, tolerant, and scientifically advanced cultures in the world, some 2,000+ years ago. With the rise of Islam, however, those things changed.
Let us take a look at the roots of violence in these imperialist religions:
Judaism (Old Testament):
Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. (Exodus 22:19 NAB)
They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)
If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, "You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord." When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through. (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)
Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him." (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)
If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. You shall stone him to death, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. And all Israel, hearing of this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)
Suppose a man or woman among you, in one of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, has done evil in the sight of the LORD your God and has violated the covenant by serving other gods or by worshiping the sun, the moon, or any of the forces of heaven, which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then that man or woman must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 17:2-5 NLT)
One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD's name. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. His mother's name was Shelomith. She was the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put the man in custody until the LORD's will in the matter should become clear. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished. Anyone who blasphemes the LORD's name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die. (Leviticus 24:10-16 NLT)
Suppose there are prophets among you, or those who have dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles take place. If the prophets then say, 'Come, let us worship the gods of foreign nations,' do not listen to them. The LORD your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the LORD your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. The false prophets or dreamers who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in the land of Egypt. Since they try to keep you from following the LORD your God, you must execute them to remove the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NLT)
But any prophet who claims to give a message from another god or who falsely claims to speak for me must die.' You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the LORD or not?' If the prophet predicts something in the LORD's name and it does not happen, the LORD did not give the message. That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NLT)
Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood. (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB)
While the Israelites were camped at Acacia, some of the men defiled themselves by sleeping with the local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, and soon the Israelites were feasting with them and worshiping the gods of Moab. Before long Israel was joining in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the LORD's anger to blaze against his people. The LORD issued the following command to Moses: "Seize all the ringleaders and execute them before the LORD in broad daylight, so his fierce anger will turn away from the people of Israel." So Moses ordered Israel's judges to execute everyone who had joined in worshiping Baal of Peor. Just then one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman into the camp, right before the eyes of Moses and all the people, as they were weeping at the entrance of the Tabernacle. When Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest saw this, he jumped up and left the assembly. Then he took a spear and rushed after the man into his tent. Phinehas thrust the spear all the way through the man's body and into the woman's stomach. So the plague against the Israelites was stopped, but not before 24,000 people had died. (Numbers 25:1-9 NLT)
Stand in silence in the presence of the Sovereign LORD, for the awesome day of the LORD's judgment has come. The LORD has prepared his people for a great slaughter and has chosen their executioners. "On that day of judgment," says the LORD, "I will punish the leaders and princes of Judah and all those following pagan customs. Yes, I will punish those who participate in pagan worship ceremonies, and those who steal and kill to fill their masters' homes with loot. "On that day," says the LORD, "a cry of alarm will come from the Fish Gate and echo throughout the newer Mishneh section of the city. And a great crashing sound will come from the surrounding hills. Wail in sorrow, all you who live in the market area, for all who buy and sell there will die. "I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem's darkest corners to find and punish those who sit contented in their sins, indifferent to the LORD, thinking he will do nothing at all to them. They are the very ones whose property will be plundered by the enemy, whose homes will be ransacked. They will never have a chance to live in the new homes they have built. They will never drink wine from the vineyards they have planted. "That terrible day of the LORD is near. Swiftly it comes – a day when strong men will cry bitterly. It is a day when the LORD's anger will be poured out. It is a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds, blackness, trumpet calls, and battle cries. Down go the walled cities and strongest battlements! "Because you have sinned against the LORD, I will make you as helpless as a blind man searching for a path. Your blood will be poured out into the dust, and your bodies will lie there rotting on the ground." Your silver and gold will be of no use to you on that day of the LORD's anger. For the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. He will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth. (Zephaniah 1:7:18 NLT)