The Corner

To Alykhan Velshi:

Have you actually read the Pope’s speech?  I ask because you say he recounts a 15th century conversation, when actually it’s dated 1391.  I also ask because the speech is a reasoned critique of blind activism on behalf of religion, and a call on behalf of human reason.  The main subject is the Greek roots–as in Socrates, who he quotes–of Catholic thought.  Reason is the basis of human understanding and behavior, it is not just a matter of faith.  The dialogue between the Emperor and the Persian highlights this theme.   God is comprehensible to us, and God rejects violence as a basis for spreading religion.  Benedict quotes the Koran to the effect that compulsion in the service of religion is not legitimate, even as he insists that Mohammed later endorsed the use of jihad.

He also quotes two scholars of Islam who say that Allah is entirely transcendent, his words cannot be modified or challenged, He requires absolute faith from his followeres.  Benedict insists on the role of reason, and declares that it is the only legitimate basis for the much-needed dialogue among the different faiths.

So what, exactly, is his transgression here?  To have observed that Islam’s domain was spread violently?  But that is quite true.  Are we no longer even permitted to state the obvious?

If you actually read the text, you’ll find some his strongest words are reserved for positivists and scientists, a lot tougher than the brief, albeit clearly significant, reference to the, uh fourteenth-century dialogue between the Persian and the Emperor.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


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