Pharyngula

Hey, papal apologists (papalologists?), stop reading this! You won’t like it. It’s nothing but a couple of links to religion-bashing, prompted by the naked sectarian stupidity of one bizarre religious leader.

Christopher Hitchens takes the pope to task for pissing off Islam (a triviality, as always) and criticizing the application of reason.

It is often said–and was said by Ratzinger when he was an underling of the last Roman prelate–that Islam is not capable of a Reformation. We would not even have this word in our language if the Roman Catholic Church had been able to have its own way. Now its new reactionary leader has really “offended” the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon–reason–that we possess in these dark times. A fine day’s work, and one that we could well have done without.

At least the atheists aren’t going to respond by shooting any nuns in the back. Can we just tell both Islam and Christianity to take their Dark Age superstitions and stuff them up an orifice into an equally dark, putrid place? A pox on both of them. But to the Islamic fundamentalists…a special curse on their brand of hatred and violence.

Also, Sam Harris similarly cusses out Pope Ratzi for baselessly appropriating reason. Sorry, Pope, it isn’t yours.

While the pope succeeded in enraging millions of Muslims, the main purpose of his speech was to chastise scientists and secularists for being, well, too reasonable. It seems that nonbelievers still (perversely) demand too much empirical evidence and logical support for their worldview. Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all. It turns out that this is a job for … (wait for it) … Christianity. Why is the world susceptible to rational understanding? Because God made it that way. While the pope is not much of a conjurer, many intelligent and well-intentioned people imagined they actually glimpsed a rabbit in this old hat. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, praised the pope’s “deep and complicated” address for its “clarity and openness.”

Sullivan has confused “pompous and contradictory” for “deep and complicated”, I think, and Harris has the old man pegged. This was an appeal to treat Christian superstition as primary, ruling over the false religion of Islam and the even more detestable godlessness of much of Western culture. It was played for the Catholic conservatives, no one else.

I don’t think the Pope should apologize for his remarks, however. The more it is made clear that religion is a source of division and ignorance, the sooner we can hope to be rid of it.

Comments

  1. #1 fwiffo
    September 19, 2006

    On Google news, I saw a headline to an article, or editorial, or something, that said “Pope’s Remarks Unneccessary”. I don’t know if was calling his original remarks unnecessary, or calling his apology unnecessary. I didn’t read the article. For all I know, it was about bass fishing. I was just thinking that the headline should be “Pope Unneccessary”.

    Of course religion is violent. Any attempt to have dominion over the minds of others is an inherently violent act, and that’s usually what religion is about.

  2. #2 Stanton
    September 19, 2006

    Ba’Hai is sounding more and more attractive every day.

  3. #3 AoT
    September 19, 2006

    “Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all.”

    Well, he is technically right, science cannot do this. The fact that this is outside of the scope of science and is in the realm of metaphysics is besides the point. Science also can’t tell me what color socks I should prefer, so it is an obviously broken ideology.

  4. #4 Nance Confer
    September 19, 2006

    Why?

    Nance

  5. #5 Nance Confer
    September 19, 2006

    Asking Stanton. . . why? Why another layer of this nonsense?

    Nance

  6. #6 oldhippie
    September 19, 2006

    “It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all.”
    Why should that be outside the realm of science? Seems to it has to do with human behaviour

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    September 19, 2006

    Somebody comprehends the universe?

    Who?

    Would they be so considerate as to post an explanation for us here?

  8. #8 steve s
    September 19, 2006

    I like someone’s comment “Is there no word for ‘irony’ in Arabic?”

  9. #9 Stanton
    September 19, 2006

    Nance: in a nutshell, I find that Ba’Hai is superior, given as how all of its holy writings and doctrine specifically forbid its followers from engaging in fits of “My religion and I are holier than thou,” unlike the way, say, what the Pope has been doing.

  10. #10 Kagehi
    September 19, 2006

    On Google news, I saw a headline to an article, or editorial, or something, that said “Pope’s Remarks Unneccessary”.

    Was surfing around the TV stations last night and came across what this might refer to. Basically, a moderate Muslim (yeah they exist) scholar who basically stated, “You have every right to criticize Islam (well, as long as you are one of the big three religions…).”, and, “The Pope should **not** have appologized at all.” Its basically what we keep saying, sans the willingness to not just question the blindingly obvious insanity in religion, but religion in general.

    Yep, there are moderate Muslims that think questioning how their religion is spread, and the violence involved in it, is legitimate. But, like Christian moderates, its too easy to hide under the table and hope the scaly monster you created will only kill the neighbors, than crawl out from under there and do something to stop it yourself. It is the same, “I hope it will go away, but at least its ‘ours’.”, mentality you see among Christians and at least *some* Muslims are willing to say so. Same guy estimated that the number of actual radicals are probably in the 20% range, or roughly the same as the number of religious nuts in the US how either are or blindly support il-literalists and the im-moral minority that insist that they are the only real Christians.

  11. #11 Alexander Vargas
    September 19, 2006

    I think the curse should be even, not specially so for the islamic brand of hatred and violence. Let’s not ignore the historical background, who are the invaders and who are invaded. Obviously this greatly contributes to the exaggerated responses from islamists. Radical islamists are surely very violent and hateful now, but I say it is a mistake to think that this is because of islam.
    Benedict is a very bad pope. It is true what islamist say, that he did not really say he was sorry . He just accussed the islamists of “misunderstanding” him for quoting old islam bashers. Much like I guess he will accuse us of “misunderstanding” his words as support for ID-creationism.
    Bad, bad Pope.

  12. #12 bernarda
    September 19, 2006

    Chris Hitchens was for a long time a good investigative reporter until he went on a wingnut phase. His exposure of the Catholic fraud Mama Teresa, “The Missionary Position” was excellent.

    You can see an interview with him here about it.

    http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/490/theresa.htm

    JPII was just as reactionary as Ratzo, only he had better PR.

  13. #13 Sastra
    September 19, 2006

    Stanton wrote:

    Nance: in a nutshell, I find that Ba’Hai is superior, given as how all of its holy writings and doctrine specifically forbid its followers from engaging in fits of “My religion and I are holier than thou,” unlike the way, say, what the Pope has been doing.

    Although the Ba’Hai make a great deal of their seeing all religions as “different paths to God,” I think they are not so tolerant of nonbelief. When it comes to the “ungodly” and those who deny ALL Gods, they appear to switch faces and sound very like other religions. According to Baha’u’llah, one should “eschew all fellowship with the ungodly” for “Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful.” Uh huh, here we go again…

  14. #14 J-Dog
    September 19, 2006

    Sturbanfuhrer Benedict: Ah General Burkhalter! What a pleasant surprise!

    Muslems: Shutup Klink.

    GWB: I know nothing! Nothing!

    With all due respect and apologies to Colonel Klink!

  15. #15 Keith Douglas
    September 19, 2006

    AoT: Once again, why do you think science and metaphysics are necessarily disjoint? (I’ve posted on this repeatedly, so you might want to search for previous discussions.) For example, what makes you think the universe is not self-perpetuating? (I wrote on this just yesterday, I believe it was.)

    Sastra: I get the impression that the intolerance to non-theists is common to some strains of Islam, as well.

  16. #16 Nance Confer
    September 19, 2006

    Exactly, Sastra.

    Why bother with all the claptrap.

    Nance

  17. #17 Kagehi
    September 19, 2006

    This is what scares me about the minds of some people who I otherwise agree with. The thinking in the very post following the one I made can be basically summed up with:

    “While we would **never** suggest backing down from our position about religion in the case of Christianity, or worse pandering to their desire to be appologized to for every offense and catered to there every whim, since we know **exactly** what the result of doing that is, somehow Muslims are different.” So why? Because they have more guns, or because they are poor innocents that would never hurt a fly if the evil US and the west would just leave them alone, never mind the long history of their radicals pissing on (or just killing) anyone that didn’t kiss Mohammed’s feet.

    All I can say to such logic is WTF? The pope didn’t go far enough in his criticism, precisely because he didn’t want to see things blow up, but as I tried to point out, even the real Muslims say that appologizing to the lunatics was counter productive. Yet, ironically, we are simultaniously whining about how moderate Christians, never mind moderate Muslims, refuse to do anything about the nuts, while basically telling anyone that dares to do what PZ and other do virutally daily here with regard to Christian lunacy, “Shut up! You might upset someone!”, if they are dealing with Islamic lunacy.

    Please explain this too me. Because its double sided BS like this that make me wonder if the left isn’t becoming as or more insane than the far right, at least with respect to “some” things.

    Yeah, I know the argument. If we keep upsetting them, blah, blah, blah. But at this point a five year old could go on TV and declair that some Imman was a pootie head and the next morning the radical Islamics would be issuing Fatwas to bomb preschools. We are not dealing with sane people that will accept any appology short of, “I was completely wrong, you are right, and I will do the equivalent of falling on my own sword to prove it.”

  18. #18 Dave Eaton
    September 19, 2006

    I think the curse should be even, not specially so for the islamic brand of hatred and violence. Let’s not ignore the historical background, who are the invaders and who are invaded

    It depends on whether we are integrating over history, or taking the derivative right now. Right now, I prefer a lesser pox (maybe chickenpox) on the Calvinists down the street than on the people screaming for the popes head under the banner of Islam (smallpox at least). Islamic fundamentalists are unique at this particular time t in their willingness to shed blood for thought crimes. I’ll take anti-evolution, prolife, ten-commandment slappers over head choppers for neighbors any day.

    Over the long haul, it’s a tougher case to make.

  19. #19 Greg Peterson
    September 19, 2006

    The claim that physicalism cannot explain why humans find the cosmos comprehensible but theism can is deeply flawed on at least two counts:

    If the universe was as comprehensible as theists claim it is, they would not be manufacturing evidence for imaginary beings to help explain it;

    And any living organism (read “humans” in this case) must of course make at least a minimum threshold of sense out of the environment in which it finds itself, in order to survive and reproduce. It’s a good-enough understanding of the cosmos that allows us to live and have offspring. Does that mean we find the cosmos “comprehensible” in any ultimate, metaphysical sense? Hell no. I don’t understand on more than a functional level the tiniest part of the world. And I don’t need to. PZ, you posted the most important “scripture” I’ve seen in ages recently: the latest Opus cartoon. On a metaphysical level, all I really need to understand is that some people are suffering, there’s no good reason they should be, and sometimes I can do something to help alleviate that suffering. As a wise man once noted, everything else is commentary. In the pope’s case, wholly unnecessary, uninvited, and unhelful commentary.

  20. #20 Biff Pimple
    September 19, 2006

    The POPE is a DOPE.

    He is not holy. He is just a regular ass man. He is not my father or anyone elses.

    Catholics are NOT Christians, totally different.

    Catholics n Muslims are totally backwards takin the road to hell.

  21. #21 goddogtired
    September 19, 2006

    The Press has got it wrong, again. The story should have read simply “Pope unnecessary.”

    Worst (and dumbest – he actually eats his own brand of ‘orseshit 3 meals a day, while JP2 only seemed to mime the action, like Michael Jordan eating Wheaties)… Pope… since…? (WWII at least.)

  22. #22 Pip
    September 19, 2006

    Sastra wrote:

    Although the Ba’Hai make a great deal of their seeing all religions as “different paths to God,” I think they are not so tolerant of nonbelief. When it comes to the “ungodly” and those who deny ALL Gods, they appear to switch faces and sound very like other religions. According to Baha’u’llah, one should “eschew all fellowship with the ungodly” for “Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful.” Uh huh, here we go again…

    In my experience, this is pretty far from the truth. My mother, a Baha’i for seven years now, is and always has been accepting of the rest of the family’s agnosticism. The writings may state that Baha’is should “eschew all fellowship with the ungodly,” but none of the Baha’is I know have any sort of problem with atheism and agnosticism. Many of them would consider me and my fathr o be friends, despite our lack of belief.

    Now I’m not saying this is true across the board, but in all my dealings with Baha’is I’ve found them to be more tolerant of atheism than any other religious group.

  23. #23 ZGB
    September 19, 2006

    I agree with Pip on this one. Baha’i may be just another religion, but at least it’s the kind that seems to foster mild attitudes toward other people. I’ve never heard of a Baha’i foaming at the mouth and calling for the death of a nonbeliever. Of course, I only know three, so I guess my knowledge is a little limited.

  24. #24 biosparite
    September 19, 2006

    So what gives the Baha’is any right or privilege to make any judgment about nonbelievers? The mere act by their boohah of bloviating about the “ungodly” is the issue, not whether specific practitioners apply the teaching. Also, I am sick of hearing the Baha’is holding forth on NPR commercials. Go do the era of peace and tranquility rather than talking about it on the radio. I listen to NPR while commuting and find the spiel annoying after about the thousandth iteration.

  25. #25 Vitis
    September 19, 2006

    Ya, all the Baha’i I know ar nice folk to, but that doesn’t make me think they are not a little insane. Any system of belief that depends on holding some magical thinking on the same level with(or above) rational thinking won’t be encouraged or endorsed by me. It’s just gotta go. Magical thinking is fun (I love my Tolkein, man) but any head that believes it is daft.

  26. #26 Scott Hatfield
    September 19, 2006

    bernarda, I beg to differ: at least with respect to the teaching of evolution, it is clear that JP2 was *not* a reactionary. His celebrated address to the Pontifical Academy of Science in 1996 conferred an unprecedented sense of legitimacy and acceptance to the enterprise when he remarked, in part:

    “… new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

    Now, speaking of arguments, I’m aware that there are some folks (usually creationists) who argue that the sense of JP2’s address was misread at key points, and that he wasn’t endorsing evolution so much as acknowledging the overwhelming scientific consensus in its favor.

    Even if one buys this interpretation (which seems by definition ‘reactionary’), the fact still remains that the address constituted an unprecedented acknowledgement of that consensus by the Pope, one which neither B16 nor his underlings have reaffirmed, despite a pointed letter from Miller, Ayala and Krauss requesting same earlier last year.

    I invite your comment….Scott

  27. #27 andy
    September 19, 2006

    Science also can’t tell me what color socks I should prefer, so it is an obviously broken ideology.

    So long as they relate more to your pants than your shoes (except when wearing jeans), you’ll be ok. This has been proven by countless experiments published in dozens of scientific journals.

  28. #28 Arun
    September 19, 2006

    “Jaish-e-Muhammad”
    “Jaish-e-Muhammad”
    “Jaish-e-Muhammad”.

    PZMyers, perhaps you should edit out this comment, it is very inflammatory. Muslims have been burning effigies of the leaders of this terrorist group all over the world.

  29. #29 Colin
    September 19, 2006

    As religions go Baha’i ain’t abysmal, but they like most religions preach against homosexuality — they don’t wish them dead but they still see it as a personal flaw to be gotten rid of.

    That in and of itself is reason enough to dislike them.

    Though I gotta give them props for the really beautiful temple they have in India. However not mad props since I might have to break their prohibition against drugs and alcohol to properly use that slang.

  30. #30 Sastra
    September 19, 2006

    Baha’i may be just another religion, but at least it’s the kind that seems to foster mild attitudes toward other people. I’ve never heard of a Baha’i foaming at the mouth and calling for the death of a nonbeliever.

    Because it makes such play of tolerance and acceptance, Baha’i tends to attract tolerant folk. No surprise there. But their scriptures appear to heap more than a little fire and scorn on the ungodly nonbelievers. I have also known or heard of them withdrawing from “ecumenical” events which contain atheists. When you emphasise the unity of humanity under the “we all follow God in different ways” mantra you have a rather nice set up for the exclusion of atheists.

    Of course, there is no doubt a lot of variation among Baha’is, as with all groups. Since they promote nonviolence, I don’t really expect to see them waging jihad against the Ungodly.

  31. #31 j.t.delaney
    September 20, 2006

    Islamic fundamentalists are unique at this particular time t in their willingness to shed blood for thought crimes. I’ll take anti-evolution, prolife, ten-commandment slappers over head choppers for neighbors any day.

    This simply isn’t true. When the same “anti-evolution, prolife, ten-commandment slappers” control the largest military the world has ever seen… and then use it to invade other countries under dubious circumstances, I think they demonstrate that their reverence for life is also only skin-deep, and their own moral compass is also quite flawed.

    On a personal level, the Muslim neighbors and coworkers that I’ve had have all been genuinely decent people — much like most of the Christians, Bhuddists, Jews, and secular humanists I’ve known.

  32. #32 Virge
    September 20, 2006

    On the value of faith in answering the big questions.

    Me: God, why do I exist?

    God: Because I created you.

    Me: So why do you exist?

    God: Strangely enough, I don’t know, and I can’t think of any way to find out. I usually console myself by saying “I am because I am”.

    Me: What was it like before you made the universe?

    God: Erm, to tell the truth, I’ve got a bit of a memory blank on that one. In fact I don’t remember any of the times before humans…

    Me: Go on…

    God: You know, it’s strange now that I come to think about it…

  33. #33 AoT
    September 20, 2006

    “AoT: Once again, why do you think science and metaphysics are necessarily disjoint? (I’ve posted on this repeatedly, so you might want to search for previous discussions.)” Well, I’d say they must be disjoint if science makes claims about the world and metaphysics lacks proof of the worlds existence. The simple fact is that science relies on inductive logic, which is good enough for the purpose but does not really get to real proofs.

    “For example, what makes you think the universe is not self-perpetuating? (I wrote on this just yesterday, I believe it was.)”

    Nothing makes me think it is not self-perpetuating. I’m confused as to why you ask.

  34. #34 G. Tingey
    September 20, 2006

    Science and metaphysics ARE disjoint.

    I suggest you read Hume.

    Then consider, and disprove, if you can, the following. Unless and until disproven, they are taken to be (provisionally) true…
    1. No “god” is detectable ( and, is therfore irrelevant)
    2. All religions are moral and usually physical blackmail.

    In the mentime eithe put up, and do the experiments, or shut up.

  35. #35 AoT
    September 20, 2006

    Are you talking to me?

  36. #36 Keith Douglas
    September 20, 2006

    AoT: You asked for proof of the universe’s existence. Well, that’s unnecessary, if you acknowledge that it is self perpetuating. As for the rest, well, if you think that science relie soley on induction, you’re sadly mistaken. Invention of hypotheses (abduction, consilience) and deduction are just as important. But what does that have to do with metaphysics being disjoint (or not) from science?

    G. Tingley: You seem to hold the view that Hume is the be all and end all. Would you cite Newton as the last word on gravitation? I hope not. Similarly, in the past 50 or 100 years there have been quite a few philosophers that have argued for scientific metaphysics in the sense I described. Here are two examples …

    Treatise on Basic Philosophy, Volume 3 Notice the reviewer who points out the use in computing as one possible area of contact with science and technology.

    A World of States of Affairs Similar in theme, too simiplified for my tastes, but it does address the sorts of questions we are debating.

    Both of these are discussed and used in my work, available on my website.

  37. #37 Nance Confer
    September 20, 2006

    Pip:
    My mother, a Baha’i for seven years now, . . .

    Me:
    What happened 7 years ago?

    If someone suddenly starts believing: “Bahá’u’lláh is the Messenger of God for this day” (http://www.bahai.org/dir/bahaullah) I start wondering why.

    Any clues?

    Nance

  38. #38 AoT
    September 20, 2006

    “AoT: You asked for proof of the universe’s existence. Well, that’s unnecessary, if you acknowledge that it is self perpetuating. As for the rest, well, if you think that science relie soley on induction, you’re sadly mistaken. Invention of hypotheses (abduction, consilience) and deduction are just as important. But what does that have to do with metaphysics being disjoint (or not) from science?”

    It isn’t a matter of whether I think it is self perpetuating, it is a matter of not knowing. I am certainly of the opinion that the there is reality and that the universe is self perpetuating, but I lack *proof*.

    I also did not say that Science relies *solely* on induction, but point taken.

  39. #39 Pip
    September 20, 2006

    Nance:

    Basically, my mother had been a practicing Catholic for 20 odd years, but had a split with both the local church and Catholicism as a whole over certain matters. For another couple years she did some independent research on religion, and found that the Baha’i faith suited her worldview best.

    Pip

  40. #40 Monado
    September 20, 2006

    Hmmm… The Pope has now semi-apologized to Muslims by saying that he was quoting a medieval guy about religious violence. He could have quoted the Roman Catholic Abbott Arnaud-Amaury, the originator of the phrase, “Kill them all: let God sort them out.” (Literally, “Kill them all: God will know his own.” Then the Muslims wouldn’t be offended and he could still be quoting a medieval guy about religious violence.

  41. #41 Nance Confer
    September 21, 2006

    Thanks, Pip.

    Nance

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