Slugger O'Toole

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Benedictine controversy misses the point

Fri 15 September 2006, 7:30pm

The reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s supposedly offensive speech hasn’t, yet, reached the level of the cultivated hysteria meted out to the Danish cartoons, but Muslim representatives, both elected and self appointed, are in full outrage mode. Personally I agree with Andrew Brown, at The First Post, that context, both historical and textual, is key… and with Stephen Bates, at CiF, “if you cannot, as part of a lengthy and profound academic lecture, cite a 600 year-old text for fear of stirring the aggravation of noisy politicians half way around the world, what CAN you do?”. Although I’m less enamoured with Benedict’s attempt to equate, or entwine, religion and science.. which seems to be the actual objective of the speech, Meeting with the Representatives of Science UpdatedFor the record here’s the offensive paragraph from the speech

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, 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 Qur’an, 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 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…”.

As Andrew Brown pointed out Constantinople fell 50 years later

But the later paragraphs, including Benedict’s conclusion, have been all but overshadowed in the controversy

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought – to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being – but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss”. The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

Updated A spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI has clarified his comments

The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions.

Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervour of Muslim believers, warned secularised Western culture to guard against “the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom”.

Perhaps scientists should burn a couple of effigies..?

And it wasn’t secular society that interpreted his address in that manner..

And Pope Benedict XVI has added

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.

I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

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Comments (76)

  1. Brenda says:

    And they are getting all bent out of shape over that? Like the cartoons, Salman Rushdie when are these guys going to get real. Will they burn more effigies threaten more lives or worse? The emperors words are getting prophetic. Watch out those who dare to speak about muslims- if they don’t like what you say you’re in for it.

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  2. The Devil says:

    Pete,
    You’re a nervous breakdown waitng to happen.

    You belive in Religion associated with fictionalised accounts of an alcoholic masochistic repressed homosexual story telling magician that lived 2,000 years ago, but refuse to worsip the Sun that heats this planet makes the crops grow that feed us, and provides the light for the production of oxygen in order that we breath and live.

    You believe that the good old USA landed on the moon in 1969 but ignore the medical, photographic, technological, and mathematical evidence that proves otherwise.

    I am only trying to warn you Pete because believe it or not there are one or two of us that like you, you do put up varied and different posts from the usual horse-shit that we are asked to post replies to on Slugger, you’re not as arrogant as Mick (you might be the Devil but i’m God) Fealty, and you’re prettier than Miss Fitz (have you seen her dog jeezusss)

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  3. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter”

    With the above extract, I think his pontifness has hit the nail rather squarely on the head.
    What he, and other religious leaders seem to fear most is the heinous crime of ordinary people being able to keep their religious faith between themselves and their God, without the stormtroopers of organised religion poking their nose in.
    ‘We know how you should be doing it’ is a concept every bit as daft as having an organisation decide your music taste or direct your TV viewing.
    In any just society, religious belief should be entirely a matter for the individual and their chosen deity, not some bloke in a frock or a turban. To suggest otherwise is merely to sanction dictatorship and repression.

    Benedict’s broadside on Islam is of course a classic example of pots calling kettles black. The RC church has been adept over the centuries at human rights abuses par excellence and even today continue to trample on the most basic rights of women and children, often with breath-taking arrogance.

    That’s not to say that the guy doesn’t have a point as regards Islam. Dragging up a 600 year old quote may make the Orange Order look hip and happening, but it IS difficult to see exactly what Islam has contributed to the planet other than a grim determination to remain in the stone age, trample on women and spit on non-believers. The new jihad may be startling to many in the west, but is par for the course to most in the Islamic world, where the suicide bomber is merely the logical end point of extreme fundamentalism.

    To non-believers, Islam is a deeply unattractive religion. Intolerant, backward, devout to the point of parody, grotesquely discriminatory and riven by often hideous in-fighting amongst it’s various branches, it ditches whatever sympathy it elicits in the west by behaving like a spoilt bullying child over the most insignificant slights.
    This latest major news story concerning the clash of the delusions promises to be an interesting one. Who will blink first?

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  4. dave says:

    At last an alliance could be formed between the loyalist/protestant/unionist people of ulster and the muslim world against the anti-christ (copyright ian paisley) himself. Prods and Muslims against popery, I guess they must be in whirling dervish mode over in ATW, all their dreams have come true.

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  5. Greenflag says:

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the German-born pope, saying his message had been misunderstood.

    “It is an invitation to dialogue between religions and the pope has explicitly urged this dialogue, which I also endorse and see as urgently necessary,” she said Friday. “What Benedict XVI makes clear is a decisive and uncompromising rejection of any use of violence in the name of religion.”

    Islam is not in listening mood . When the day dawns on a Christian Church in Riyadh that might be a sign that Islam has moved into the 16th century . Now that could have the Free P’s worried . Just imagine one shower of mad mullahs catching up on another :(

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  6. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Your.. ermm.. concern is duly noted, Mr Satan.

    Oh and thanks.. I think..

    GLC and GF

    I think it’s worth remembering that, as with the Danish cartoons, this current outrage also has an air of being carefully cultivated and promoted.

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  7. Holy Grail says:

    Its about time the Pope called for another Crusade so we can teach these muslims a lesson !!!

    Time to dust off my Knights Amour !!!

    I think the BIG Ian should lead us into Battle !!

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  8. Greenflag says:

    PB,

    No question -Par for the course

    HG ,

    ‘I think the BIG Ian should lead us into Battle !! ‘

    I agree . Send him in in the first wave with a bible in one hand and a tablet of stone in the other . I promise not to notify the Turkish Air Force where the first wave of Crusaders will land .

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  9. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Try to keep to the topic, guys, rather than finagling our very local difficulties into what is a much wider conversation.

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  10. McGrath says:

    Is this reaction (and previous reactions) from the Muslim community truly genuine? Are their sensibilities that easily affronted? I dont think so. Which leads onto more difficult questions like, are they just hell bent on trouble looking for the simplest thing to get them off? Or do they have some kind of legitimate grievance?

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  11. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    McGrath

    I’d suggest that this reaction (and previous reactions) is from certain elements within a, much larger, Muslim community who have not, as a whole, reacted in the manner highlighted in the media.

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  12. Occasional Commentator says:

    McGrath,
    Muslims don’t care about this. Muslim politicians make a scene out of things like to distract their people from the awful governance in the Middle East.

    Nothing in the speech could be taken, in even the smallest way, as any sort of negative comment on Islam. He’s making a general lecture on a few subjects including violence and the methods of debating various topics. He could have quoted any number of people, and being an educated person he knows crazy sh*t people said centuries ago. And he has easier access to what old popes said, what with being a pope himself and having a great bureaucracy to look stuff up for him in his archives. Maybe he could have thought ahead and found a Muslim quote about the crusades instead – but he wasn’t playing off one religion against the other so he didn’t think of it.

    Put simply, quoting somebody doesn’t mean you agree with them. We often see people deliberating quoting their enemies to discredit them.

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  13. harpo says:

    The speech does appear to be offensive.

    The Pope quotes that emperor and then doesn’t say anything about whether or not he agrees with the emperors views.

    It’s all much the same as giving a speech about the Jewish faith, and then quoting someone like Hitler during it, and not clarifying whether you agree with Hitler or disagree with him.

    In this case the Pope quoted some emperor who stated that with Islam comes violence. The Pope doesn’t say if he agrees or disagrees with it. So why bring it up at all?

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  14. Occasional Commentator says:

    harpo,
    He uses it as a route to a discussion condemning all violence. He doesn’t qualify it in any way, thereby condemning the Crusades too.

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  15. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Harpo

    You’ll have to provide a more compelling argument than that. Benedict clearly describes the emperor as “[addressing] his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness” and “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.”

    In other words, the quote was an opening gambit in an ongoing conversation from a besieged position.

    NOT an analysis of Islam.

    And, once again, the quote itself is an aside in a speech that seeks to equate and entwine religion and science.

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  16. harpo says:

    ‘He uses it as a route to a discussion condemning all violence.’

    Occasional Commentator:

    Fair enough, but that’s not the point. If you go quoting someone who says that with Islam comes violence, and that someone goes on to say that religion should not be spread via violence, then you are putting forward the argument that with Islam violence does indeed come, and that you don’t agree with it.

    His point may have been a universal one, but the specific group that he chose to illustrate the problem of belief being spread through violence was Islam.

    What do you expect Muslims to think? Why didn’t the Pope use an example closer to himself – his very own church for example, and their use of violence in the past?

    Why pick on the muslims?

    It’s much the same as the Irish President and her comments about hate in NI. She picked on one side, using those people as an example of folks who raise children to hate. And unionists rightly complained.

    The problem is that if you illustrate a universal problem by using only one set of people as a example, some are going to take it that you mean that those people are the ‘best’ example of it. That they are the main problem in the world.

    In both cases, the speaker would have been better off using their own tribe to illustrate the point, and not pick on one single other tribe, especially when there are current tensions.

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  17. harpo says:

    ‘NOT an analysis of Islam.’

    Pete:

    I disagree.

    The Pope used a specific example to illustrate a point and picked on Islam.

    He quoted that emperor – with Islam comes violence. Neither the emperor or the Pope is then quoted as saying anything like ‘of course that isn’t true about Islam’.

    Instead the Pope goes on to do a follow up quote from the emperor where the emperor says that using violence to spread religion is wrong.

    Summary:
    With Islam comes violence.
    Using violence to spread religion is wrong.

    Where is there any statement that the emperor’s opening brusque statement is actually wrong? Where did the Pope indicate that he disagreed with the emperor’s opening statement?

    And if this was all about religion and science, then why the hell did the Pope even go near the topic of holy war? In the full speech he even says something like ‘here’s a marginal issue’, so why is it in there?

    This is a large own goal.

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  18. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    harpo

    He’s implicitly criticising, in a much wider speech – see previous comments – all religious leaders, or would be leaders, who advocate violence.. using an historical quote in relation to a current issue to illustrate that point.

    The reaction confirms that those elements, who also prefer literal interpretation over contextual, remain in control in some areas.

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  19. Fanny says:

    Good on Ratzo that he didn’t apologize.

    I’ve just watched Newsnight and it was cringemaking to see the presenter toadying up to a rep from the British Islamic Front or whatever it was.

    He cited the “West’s” invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of Christian bellicosity, casually glossing over 9/11, Bali and other outrages as–if not casus belli–prime examples of what the pope meant by religiously inspired violence.

    I’m more than ever convinced that the Beeb fears targeting by Muslim madmen. Why else would they be so partisan?

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  20. Doctor Who says:

    Perhaps Benedict could have mentioned the part that Christianty played in the Crusades, or indeed the part the Vatican played in the inquisition.

    Solely referring to the violent history of Islam is naturally very selective and revisionist.

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  21. Fanny says:

    His predecessor apologized for the Crusades. How about a Muslim leader apologizing for the sacking of Medina and the thousands of Jews who were murdered along the way.

    Let’s not hold our breaths. To Islam, apology is a one-way street.

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  22. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    The whole thing that really sticks in the craw about all this is the idea that somehow Islam should be above criticism and ridicule. All religions are equally ridiculous and are therefore equal targets. There is no ‘holier than thou’ hierarchy. It’s fair do’s to take the piss out of big Ian’s line-dance pronouncements, and we’ll all had a chuckle at choirboy jokes, so what the hell is the problem with having a pop at Islam?
    It’s the usual story — if you’ve got a ‘military wing’ who are happy to kill for ‘the cause’, you’ll get a lot more respect, as Fanny noted above regarding the BBC arse licking episode.

    As regards Ratzy’s comments being offensive, so what if they were? If Muslims can’t take criticism, they shouldn’t be on the planet in the first place. The sooner everyone stops pussy-footing round the elephant in the room, the sooner we can put all this fundamentalist nonsense back in the cupboard marked ‘delusional nonsense’ and get on with living in the real world.

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  23. McGrath says:

    Pete:

    I’d suggest that this reaction (and previous reactions) is from certain elements within a, much larger, Muslim community who have not, as a whole, reacted in the manner highlighted in the media.

    You think the media are hyping it, or they are afraid to be critical of Islam?

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  24. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    McGrath

    They’re reporting the reaction without analysis.

    So it goes.

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  25. Little Eva says:

    “If you go quoting someone who says that with Islam comes violence … then you are putting forward the argument that with Islam violence does indeed come …”

    Yes, of course, that is right. The Pope is a Professor of theology for goodness sake. This was not accidental.
    His main theme was the separation of religion and science, and he argued that this is a bad thing. But he was also making the point about God and violence being mutually exclusive and he was directing this at Islam.
    And do you know what folks, he was dead right on two counts: in the point that he made, and on where he directed it.

    I’m glad he had the guts to say what he did (because someone of his stature needed to say it) and ensured that there was no confusion about who he meant. Let’s hope he doesn’t apologise.

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  26. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    While the focus of the speech is, indeed, elsewhere, that particular point is more subtle, Little Eva.

    He’s challenging the literalists [within Islam and elsewhere] who advocate violence.. in light of the quotation from the Qur’an – “There is no compulsion in religion”.

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  27. Little Eva says:

    Pete

    When you quote from the Qur’an to make a point against violent fundamentalist religionists, and use another centuries-old quote about mohamed bringing nothing but violence in the name of his religion, it is Islamism you are directing your remarks at.

    Also your piece is contradictory:”He’s challenging the literalists [within Islam and elsewhere] who advocate violence.. in light of the quotation from the Qur’an – “There is no compulsion in religion”.

    If they were truely literalist then they would be bound to abide literally by: “There is no compulsion in religion”.
    These people are actually selectivists who carefully select what suits their purpose and ignore what doesn’t.

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  28. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Little Eva

    “If they were truely literalist then they would be bound to abide literally by: “There is no compulsion in religion”.

    These people are actually selectivists who carefully select what suits their purpose and ignore what doesn’t.”

    That’s why he chose the quote.

    And the rest of the speech expands the point to relate to other religions and, more importantly, to the relationship, as he sees it, between reason and religion.

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  29. Little Eva says:

    Pete

    “That’s why he chose the quote.”

    Of course, but it was you, not he, who wrongly described them as literalists.

    Also you avoid the major point I make in refuting your contention that this was not specifically aimed at Islamists: “When you quote from the Qur’an to make a point against violent fundamentalist religionists, and use another centuries-old quote about mohamed bringing nothing but violence in the name of his religion, it is Islamism you are directing your remarks at.”

    I say two things:
    1)He was directing his remarks at Islam.
    2)He was right to do so.

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  30. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Eva

    “Of course, but it was you, not he, who wrongly described them as literalists.”

    Wrongly? You don’t substantiate that claim. And it’s the ongoing argument between the literalists and those who seek to intrepret historical texts that lies at the root of the current discussion.

    “I say two things:
    1)He was directing his remarks at Islam.
    2)He was right to do so. ”

    You can say what you like.. it doesn’t make you right.

    You need an argument to back that up beofre you can class it as a refutation.

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  31. Patty says:

    Pete:

    In his concluding paragraph, Pope Benedict invites the West and the East to engage in a dialogue based on reason. He says:

    “ It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.”

    As you know, Oriana Fallaci passed away today. I found posted on the net a translation of a column she wrote in July 2005. She addresses Pope Benedict:

    “Oh, neither have we been, nor are we, angels. Agreed. Inquisitions, defenestrations, executions, wars, infamies of every kind; as well as Guelphs and Ghibellines without end. And if we want to judge ourselves severely, it’s enough to think about what we did sixty years ago with the Holocaust. But afterwards, we applied a little wisdom, of course. We thought about what we had done and if for no other reason than in the name of decency, we bettered ourselves a little. They have not. The Catholic Church experienced epochal changes, Your Holiness. And again, you know this better than I. At a certain point, it is remembered that the Church was preaching reason; thus choice; thus the Good, thus Liberty, and she ceased to tyrannize. To kill people. Or constrain them to paint only Christs and Madonnas. She understood laicism. Thanks to men of the first order, a long list of which You are a part, she leant a hand to democracy. And today, she speaks to people like me. She accepts them and, far from burning them alive (I never forget that up until four hundred years ago the Holy Office would have sent me to the stake), she respects their ideas. They do not. Therefore, there can be no dialogue with them.”

    In his speech, the Pope seems to be answering Oriana, challenging her conclusions, appealing to dialogue based on reason. Perhaps hoping to pave the way for reformation in the Islamic world.

    Coming after the Pope’speech we see scenes of angry mobs, burning effigies, and angry placards in block print English. It is Friday and not coincidentally the “unrest” occurs after prayers.

    So this, then, is the Islamic answer to the Pope’s appeal. It is an emotional answer, not one based in reason. I conclude that a reformation of Islam, based on logos is a long way off.

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  32. Rory says:

    If it is felt necessary, in order to illustrate the error of His Holiness in alluding to the acceptability of using violence to promote Islam, to declare a fatwa against the pontiff, it should at least provide an excellent basis for a new paper on rhe subject.

    The author of any such paper would be forgiven if he wished to publish under a pseudonym.

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  33. Holy Grail says:

    Can i say there was nothing wrong with the Crusades we saved Jerusalem. And if Christians don’t stand firm again the Muslims we be on the march again just like in 1071.

    The Pope should call on the Teutonic Knights once again for help.

    Mark my words the time is near for the Final Crusade !!!

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  34. Fanny says:

    Dear God, that’s all Slugger needs: a Muslim troll.

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  35. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”So this, then, is the Islamic answer to the Pope’s appeal. It is an emotional answer, not one based in reason.”

    Patty — since when has anything religious been concerned with reason?
    The whole notion of a deity and spirit world is by necessity an emotional one — it is impossible to ‘reason’ about something which is unproveable and effectively a product of the human imagination.

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  36. Little Eva says:

    Pete
    Sorry for disappearing I just had to get to bed.

    “Wrongly? You don’t substantiate that claim.”

    I believe I already did by drawing your attention to the inherent contradiction in calling them literalists by saying this: “If they were truely literalist then they would be bound to abide literally by: “There is no compulsion in religion”.
    These people are actually selectivists who carefully select what suits their purpose and ignore what doesn’t.”

    You again ignore my first point by saying that I haven’t backed up my statement – “I say two things:
    1)He was directing his remarks at Islam.
    2)He was right to do so.“

    But, again, I have already pointed out why any reasonable person could only conclude – given this man’s position, his intellect, his background in theology and the current antics of Islamism – he must surely have been aware that this would be taken as being directed at Islam. He delivered it anyway, so that must have been where it was intended to go.

    What I said was this: “When you quote from the Qur’an to make a point against violent fundamentalist religionists, and use another centuries-old quote about mohamed bringing nothing but violence in the name of his religion, it is Islamism you are directing your remarks at.”

    As to whether he was right to do so, that is a subjective point I am entitled to make.

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  37. Little Eva says:

    Pete
    I should also have included this earlier post from you to “prove” that it was you not the Pope who described them as literalists. Unless it had been removed from the copy of his speech I have read.

    “He’s challenging the literalists [within Islam and elsewhere] who advocate violence.. in light of the quotation from the Qur’an – “There is no compulsion in religion”.
    Posted by Pete Baker on Sep 16, 2006 @ 12:10 AM

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  38. sapi says:

    I think it’s about time religion was scrapped altogether. It has caused problems throughout the world for generations and is set to get worse. The question we need to ask IS THIS WHAT GOD INTENDED? I think not.

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  39. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Eva

    I think that we actually agree on the point being made by Benedict… whose speech I have interpreted in my description.

    But the speech is much wider in scope than the narrow focus of the outrage and the media coverage.

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  40. Occasional Commentator says:

    sapi,
    Non-religious people are just as likely to hold strong opinions which they refuse to or are unable to defend through reasonable dialogue. If religion went away we would have much the same problems.

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  41. Fanny says:

    I’m curious as to Tony Blair’s response to this. Will he, like Angela Merkel, stand firm with the pope?

    Something tells me he won’t….

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  42. Little Eva says:

    Pete

    I agree with what you say. I’m a bit of a pedant – in this day and age I think it takes you to be.

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  43. Brian Boru says:

    The Muslims need to chill out.

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  44. Fanny says:

    We’ve been here before of course. Learned man of peace makes innocuous (and factual) statement, bully takes it thick, jumps up and down, hits out and all about him, demands apology or else.

    Over on Michelle Malkin’s blog http://www.michellemalkin.com/ you can get some idea of how things stand in the bully’s warped universe. A photo of the pope crayoned on to turn him into a devil, festooned with charming sentiments to appeal to the Muslim sensibilities. I quote:

    “The script in red calls for the Pope’s beheading. The rest of the translation: ‘Swine and servant of the cross, worships a monkey on a cross, hateful evil man, stoned Satan, may Allah curse him, blood-sucking vampire.’”

    No apologies necessary there of course.

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  45. holy grail says:

    Pope ‘sorry’ for offence to Islam – waste of space !!!

    The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers

    Tarcisio Bertone
    Vatican secretary of state

    Not such a big lad now is he – the thought of a wee suicide bomber in the Vatican sorted him out.

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  46. Fanny says:

    I’m confused, is the Turkish visit on or off?

    He’d be wise not to go, always remembering that it was a Turk who had a go at John Paul.

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  47. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    Pope in ‘missing balls’ shock.
    It’s OK to have a pop at adversaries who aren’t likely to fight back — women, children and scientists, but if somebody looks like they might cause serious trouble — apologise now. Nice one Ratzy.

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  48. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    A spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI has clarified his comments

    The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions.

    Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervour of Muslim believers, warned secularised Western culture to guard against “the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom”.

    Perhaps scientists should burn a couple of effigies..?

    And it wasn’t secular society that interpreted his address in that manner..

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  49. Fanny says:

    Me, I sincerely regret that a bunch of mad Muslim fucks flew planes containing real live people into towers containing more of the same.

    Does that sound as though I’m personally apologizing for the 9/11 deeds of Al-Qaeda? Course not.

    Ratzo is one smart cookie, and he’ll say he’s sorry for something shabby that he’s guilty of. Until then…

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  50. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Fanny

    Indeed, that’s why I used the italicised emphasis on clarified

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  51. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”Perhaps scientists should burn a couple of effigies..?”

    Perhaps they should Pete. But on the other hand would that not give the religious delusionists some sort of credibility? Exactly why would science wish to give creedence to such ravings?
    Religionists are more than happy to fully utilise the rewards of scientific research — medical interventions, air travel, the internet, but as soon as science steps into the way of their beliefs, as in evolution, contraception, stem cell research etc, suddenly science is guilty of denying or challenging their notion of God.

    Should such nonsensical ideas be given creedence alongside proven scientific acheivements? Or should science quietly ignore the ramblings of the pontiff and the mullahs and plough it’s own furrow? Let the religionists fight their own battles amongst themselves and let the rest of us get on with the world of reality.

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  52. Patty says:

    Gerry – the Pope would disagree with you when you say that reason and religion have nothing to do with each other. He is appealing to the Islamists to dialogue with reason.

    I originally thought the Muslims were responding with emotion. But after sleeping on it, I think that the Muslim response to the Pope’s speech is actually cynical and calculating. The riots and mayhem appear spontaneous on the surface – but they started after Friday prayers, complete with English placards and pre-made effigies (where do they get these?) It seems to be yet another power play designed to further stifle criticism of Islam from the politically correct Judeo-Christian West.

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  53. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”the Pope would disagree with you when you say that reason and religion have nothing to do with each other.”

    No arguments there Patty. The Pope would disagree with me on a large number of issues.
    I fail to see however, how reason can have anything to do with religious belief. By definition, religious belief is simply that — an irrational belief held with no evidence whatsoever — reason is not involved, merely blind faith and imagination.
    I do agree with you regarding the highly organised Muslim outrage — we’ve seen similar, albeit much smaller, ‘spontaneous’ outbreaks of pre-planned outrage in our own little neck of the woods, with strings being pulled by those with larger, more sinister agendas. There was something particularly obscene about watching women in full burkas ‘protesting’ on the streets, defending a belief system which relegates them to the role of freak show.
    It is vital that western governments and leaders do not give in to this form of hysterical protest. To do so would be to give Islam some sort of moral superiority over other faiths. All regimes and faiths are equally open to criticism and ridicule, and Muslims do not qualify for some sort of exceptional treatment. These people demand respect but show none for other faiths (how many Christian churches are tolerated in Muslim strongholds?), they reserve the right to provoke violence and issue death threats at the slightest offensive remark and twist their own scriptures to justify suicide bombings and the slaughter of the innocent. The west must not give in to this form of blackmail, and the Pope should not provide any further form of ‘apology.’

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  54. Shuggie McSporran says:

    Fanny

    ““..Swine and servant of the cross, worships a monkey on a cross, hateful evil man, stoned Satan, may Allah curse him, blood-sucking vampire.”

    This made me laugh, substitute one word and it could fairly easily gave fitted into a sermon from the NI politician who gets the most votes. I always suspected there was a yawning gulf between western civilisation and the DUP.

    Anyway, Benedict is obviously an intelligent and very intellectual man, but he was pretty stupid to say what he did on this occasion.

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  55. Shuggie McSporran says:

    Patty

    “..complete with English placards and pre-made effigies”

    It doesn’t really take that long to make a placard and an effigy – and don’t forget many Muslim countries are in the east, so they are few hours ahead of us here in the west.

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  56. Patty says:

    Gerry: I couldn’t agree with you more. I really hope the Pope does not “apologize.” The West already lacks political leaders who will stand up for the right to criticize. The New York TImes is falling all over itself in a rush not to offend radical islamists. It’s pathetic.

    Shuggie: you say the Pope was stupid on this occassion, but don’t you see that it really doesn’t matter what exactly or when exactly the Pope says something. The Radical Islamists seem to be playing chess while we are playing pick-up-sticks. In other words, they pick their fights, are well prepared, have media lined up and have very rapidly and thoroughly spread the messagage that it’s not ok to criticize the Muslims. I believe this is intentional. Once we all decide to shut up and not criticize, Radical Islamists can continue promoting their goal, which, I guess, is the spread of Islam, world-wide. Meanwhile, we delicately move around them trying not to offend.

    Tell me I’m paranoid. Because I wish I were. But I’m afraid I’m not.

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  57. Little Eva says:

    Patty

    You’re not.

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  58. abucs says:

    Gerry, perhaps religion sounds irrational to you simply because they make their case. The more you make your case, the more you are open to that charge.

    How – created.
    OK, by whom and when – God 13 billion years ago.

    OK, what’s he like, what has he done, where does he live, what is his relationship to us etc etc without end.

    The more questions you answer the more questions there are, the more you are open to the charge of irrationality because you get down to questions like ‘how many angels on a pin’ and ‘who is the guardian angel of the blogosphere’.

    As i’ve said before here, there are two possibilities – creation or natural process. Both have to make their case through reason. This is part of the invitation to dialogue by the Pope.

    If we don’t want to be charged with irrationalities then we should all be agnostics. The problem with agnosticism though is that it doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t progress thought, it just says ‘i don’t know’.

    If you want to progress the thought you have to pick one of the two unproved theories and explore that, carefully dividing your core beliefs from those you are less certain of.

    If you look at the atheists that actually try to make their case, ( unlike the great majority of atheists who appear to me to lazily assume that science will work it out, and it will somehow concur with themselves ) then there is a lot there to describe as irrational also.

    Hawkings 11 dimensions, universal planes bouncing off eachother creating big bangs, parallel worlds being created at every instant, knots or strings in other dimensions etc etc.

    The same situation applies, the more questions you answer the more you are asked and the more sillier it looks, and of course they all contradict eachother.

    It is interesting that the atheistic scientists ( together with religious ones) all now have one thing in common – they are talking about other dimensions (beyond our universe) when trying to answer the big questions.

    They are all retreating into other dimensions to try and explain the underlying process for our own reality. One problem with this is that the proofs for any of these more serious attempts will be found beyond science by definition of science itself. The reason they are retreating is that scientists have gotten down to the most basic components of matter and it’s behaviour is not ’cause and effect’ in this universe.

    A generation or two ago the attraction of atheism was that you didn’t have to retreat to other realms to explain existance or the logic of the universe, it was thought you could do it through science by studying ’cause and effect’.

    That attraction is now looking mis-placed.

    There is no doubt there is much irrational in religion. As explained above, it almost has to be by definition, the same as the atheistic attemps above. Yo have to constantly change and re-assess your thoughts and go down certain paths before realising your mistakes. Above all you need to be guided by reason.

    The Pope is calling for a dialogue based on reason and i for one think he is right to do so, both with Islam and the secular west.

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  59. Fanny says:

    Abucs, that’s a very well-reasoned piece. My compliments.

    John Fogerty fans take note.

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  60. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    Abucs — you appear to be basing your arguments here on the notion of creationism vs evolution. I personally don’t subscribe to either theory (though evolution at least has some scientific merit). I’m in that boring camp you mention above as agnostic ‘don’t knows’. It stands to reason that we cannot, at least in our current state of human progress, know with any certainty how or even if the universe was created. Entertaining theories such as ‘The Matrix’ seem as likely as any other notion. There are over 500 known creation myths adhered to in the world today — the biblical one (or is that two?) is a solitary example that happens to have the backing of a particularly vocal section of humanity.
    Sadly there is precisely nothing to recommend creationism over any other theory, other than blind faith in one particular myth.

    I watched ‘The Doomsday Code’ on Channel 4 last night, with a growing sense that I had been born on the wrong planet. The amount of delusion on display as regards biblical prophecy, raptures and tribulations suggested nothing more than a government sanctioned Star Trek convention, yet millions of seemingly intelligent people take this stuff seriously.

    Your argument appears to be that if we don’t know what created the universe, then God must have done it. Just because we don’t currently understand something does not make it a given for a supernatural explanation.

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  61. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”If you want to progress the thought you have to pick one of the two unproved theories and explore that, carefully dividing your core beliefs from those you are less certain of.”

    You don’t ”have” to pick either of these theories Abucs. After all there is precisely zero evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, for creationism, so there is absolutely no reason why you can’t propose your own theory.

    How about this one: Approx. 20 thousand years ago, some super-intelligent beings landed on a barren planet called earth. They reckoned it might make a good holiday / sports retreat for their own people, and so, using advanced ‘seed’ technology, they populated the planet with animals for sport and hunting, plants for cover and decoration and humans for more entertaining sport. Having completed this task, they returned to their home planet only to discover their entire species had been wiped out by a mystery virus, which also killed them. No-one ever returned to the ‘sport’ planet, and the more intelligent species on the earth were left to forever wonder what they were there for.

    I dreamt up this ‘creation’ scenario in my coffee break — it has just as much ‘evidence’ as the notion of God creating the universe from nothing, putting his ‘most important’ creation on the equivalent of a grain of sand in the Sahara and reserving an afterlife for just one of over 10 million species he lovingly created. It’s entirely indefensible in the world of logic and reason, but why let that stop you?

    Unfortunately Abucs, this being the sabbath, I’m off to the football, but I’d be more than happy to debate with you during the week.

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  62. abucs says:

    Thanks Fanny.

    Hi Gerry.

    I don’t make any comment on evolution here. Evolution is a big subject with differring branches of adherants interpreting fossil records and the different nature of genetics and what changes genes etc. I am not against evolution because it is at least a contributing factor IMHO.

    I think Gerry that agnostics are fair enough. Personally, i think that we should all have a healthy dose of agnosticism. But only a dose. We can only really learn if we have an open mind, but i wouldn’t want that open mind to be an unenquiring mind that assumes there is no creator. In that way one would be choosing a ‘natural creation’ without really thinking about it much the same as the people presented on channel 4 as not enqiring.

    I wouldn’t say there is a creator because we don’t know how certain things work.

    I just look at the evidence and think a creation is more likely and rational than a purely natural process. I’m not talking exclusively about life here but about the universe itself. Certainly i agree with the current scientific notion that our reality is based ‘somewhere else’.

    Again i ask the question – will man be able to create a self sustaining environment that brings forth life.

    If no then it doesn’t make much sense to say it can be created out of nothing by chance.

    If yes, then we can’t preclude the possibility that someone has created us and our universe.

    People with an enquiring mind will look at science and use their own rationality and logic and experience on what they think is the most likely scenario. People will do that and come up with different answers.

    When i look at our universe and its laws it looks like a creation. After that i’m into the irrationalities of answering the long list of questions that man has tried to answer for thousands of years. But i know whichever path i choose there are irrationalities. To my mind i have to choose, and i choose the less irrational path IMHO but am always open to change.

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  63. abucs says:

    Gerry,

    that alien creation story still doesn’t answer the question of where our universe came from. The same would apply if we were the alien race that created life and then blew ourselves up. The question of the origin of our universe would remain.

    It’s interesting that the book of genesis talks about creation in an almost off hand manner. God created this and that and then it’s all over. The main emphasis of the genesis book seems to be to relate man to God by the Adam and Eve story rather than a sensible discussion on the origins of the universe. Other than to say – twas God that did it.

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  64. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Pope Benedict XVI has added

    At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

    These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

    Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.

    I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

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  65. Donnie says:

    The reaction from the muslim world shows he had nothing to apologise for. Don’t they see the paradox of their position ‘We’re going to kill you because you said our religion is based on violence’. Hmmmm…

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  66. harvey says:

    Fascinating that the ‘muslim’ media does not seem to see the weakness of their position. ‘Ask fifty illerate goat farmers what you have been told to say to outrage the infidels’ and you have a story. Did they read the speech? freedom of speech and access to media are in most muslim countries ‘regulated’.
    Refusal to accept apolgies, burning of of christian churces in the west bank, murder of an itialian nun in mogadishu, the continuing genocide in Darfur, the denial of freedom of speech, religious belief, and democracy would not seem to help the islamic view that they are a movement for peace. Why dont they comment on those issues?

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  67. Patty says:

    harvey: In the West, we look to our media to report events as they unfold, and expect an exchange of ideas and opinions. In the East, Radical Islam is waging a war against us, using their media – and its propoganda value – as one of the fronts in the battle. The cynical “outrage” that we are currently witnessing unites muslims in the Middle East around hatred against the West and through intimitation prevents Westerners from criticizing the radical islamic movement.

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  68. Fanny says:

    “Why dont they comment on those issues?”

    Because, Harvey, in the Muslim Middle East the truth will set you free. Either your soul will be freed of its mortal coil or your body will be freed of its head.

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  69. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    ”It’s interesting that the book of genesis talks about creation in an almost off hand manner.”

    Absolutely correct Abucs. Anyone who has read the bible can’t help but be struck by the anomaly that pages and pages are given over to who begat who or the exact dimensions of Noah’s Ark, but the original ‘creation’ is glossed over in an almost childlike manner. What this suggests is that the author / authors of Genesis didn’t have much of a clue about the size, nature or workings of the universe (why would they?), but were highly concerned with MAN’S relationship with his deity. I emphasise the word man because the Eden myth is merely a hatchet job on women, and the various holy books have been well used down the centuries to subjugate and demonise women, homosexuals, scientists, indeed anyone who doesn’t conform to the ‘God-given’ male ideal.

    From the point of view of Genesis, the notion of a divine creator is entirely nonsensical. You correctly stated that my ‘alien’ story did not explain the origin of the universe, and of course the creation idea does not even attempt to explain where God came from, or how he managed to make something out of nothing.
    The simple (agnostic) answer is that we have no way of knowing where the universe came from, and may well never be able to, but rather than accepting this, and allowing science to hypothesize to it’s heart’s content, the likes of the US Fundies insist on kicking up a stink about evolutionary theory being on the school curriculum. This makes no sense whatsoever, as evolutionary theory is taught in science class, and the vast majority of scientists accept it as the best available theory. Therefore the thoughts of the church are entirely irrelevant. Science does not seek to dictate what is taught in RE class and rightly so, so why not live and let live.
    The point I’m getting at here is that religious belief is absolutely fine until it begins to infringe on such basic rights as free speech, contraception, sexual orientation and the right of a women to wear clothing of her own choosing. Once religion goes beyond the realm of fantasy, and attempts to ‘reason’, it begins to clash with the real world. I entirely fail to see why any airtime or attention should be given to the likes of the Pope or the mullahs bleating attempts to impose their delusion systems on the rest of us.

    ”When i look at our universe and its laws it looks like a creation.”

    With all due respect Abucs, people much more intelligent than you or me looked at events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and assumed them to be the wrath of God. We now see thses as natural global events. People of similar intelligence saw crop failures and cited witchcraft.
    What may look to you ‘like a creation’ may well in fact be the result of entirely random events occuring over an immense period of time. It’s all a matter of perspective.

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  70. Lovely Leitrim says:

    ‘Swine and servant of the cross, worships a monkey on a cross’

    This strange insult is actually self-depreciatory as Islam recognize Jesus as a prophet and as God’s apostle.

    It strikes me that the Islamic world has little understanding of the origin of their own faith. The prophet Muhammad led an army and engaged in bloody warfare. Despite Muslim leaders pinpointing bloody episodes from the history of Christendom, there is no parallel between the births of the two faiths. Christianity was founded on principles of self sacrifice and pacifism, Islam’s association with violence stems from it’s foundation.

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  71. ch in texas says:

    “This strange insult is actually self-depreciatory as Islam recognize Jesus as a prophet and as God’s apostle.”

    LL, I thought this myself, until I remembered a Muslim friend telling me that Jesus was never crucified.(Eyewitnesses notwithstanding, as well as the historian Josephus.)

    From Qur’an 4: 155-159

    “That they rejected faith: that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge.
    That they said (in boast) “We killed Christ (Maseeh) Jesus the son of Mary the Apostle of Allah”; but they killed him not nor crucified him but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no (certain) knowledge but only conjecture to follow for of a surety they killed him not.
    Nay Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power Wise.”

    So all the followers of Christ were FOOLED into thinking he was crucified!

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  72. abucs says:

    That would be news to the disciples who all died for their faith. Excepting Judas of course and John who was exiled to the isalnd of Patmos.

    And of course there’s still that shroud thing hanging around.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4210369.stm

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  73. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    Excepting Judas of course and John who was exiled to the isalnd of Patmos.

    Judas died for his faith in money, and of course John left us the magnificent manuscript referred to as Revelation, which was covered in alarming detail in the Channel 4 documentatry; ‘The Doomsday Code’ the other night.

    The article on the updated shroud mystery is interesting. Perhaps Christ could be cloned from his DNA, thereby fulfilling bible prophecy and uniting science and religion? What a film that would make….

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  74. Fanny says:

    Hush, Gerry! Spielberg may be listening.

    You may just have thrown away a $500,000 pitch.

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  75. Gerry Lvs Castro says:

    DOH!

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  76. Nevin says:

    It’s a bit hypocritical and ironical of Pope Benedict to point the finger at Muslims on the matter of forced conversion when the Vatican is currently being pursued through the courts [pdf file] by the victims of forced conversion and their families in Croatia in WW II.

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