Thursday, 13 September 2007

Faith & Reason discussion on MT

Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

LChuah wrote:

On Cruzeiro's comments about Catholics and the Pope, etc.:
When Farish talks about Muslim immigrants it's natural for readers to compare the behavior of immigrants in general, unless one has already decided to classify the Muslims as non-humans under whatever pretext.

As for Catholics treating the Pope's words as gospel, I pointed that out to show that they're, like all other religious groups, not monolithic. However, there WERE and still are Catholics who thought the Pope was wrong to insist on, for example, abortion or family planning. Some Catholics even went to far as to accuse the previous Pope (and the present one) of allowing tens of thousands of Africans to die of HIV because of the ban on contraception.

That some Popes have intellectual ability is beyond doubt, though how great that ability is, is debatable. As for being rational on social and moral issues, there're people, many of them Jews and human rights activists, who might've trouble believing that: they have, for example, accused Pope Pius of collaborating with the Nazis (see So being "highly educated and rational on Social and Moral issues" is no guarantee of being socially responsible and morally blameless.

And certainly the Pope's word has power, though the collapse of Soviet Empire has many other urgent reasons as well, such as an economy that was never a match for the well-established West.

I seldom read encyclicals nowadays - age and illness tell me that I gotta budget my time more usefully. I'd, however, commented on the present Pope's speech on "Faith, Reason and the University" given at the University of Regensburg (RPK posted it here on MT), in which the Pope quoted Manuell II Paleologus as saying: "show me just what Muhammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman…".

In that speech, Ratzinger asked his audience to enlarge the possibilities of reason so as to include the Divine. He claimed that "a genuine dialogue of cultures and religions" is not possible if the Divine is excluded. So far, so good. I made much the same point in my arguments with some readers here (regarding science and religion) some months ago. However, in almost the same breath, he started to equate Islam - and only Islam - with irrationality, implying that it was not possible to have a rational dialogue with a religion that's by definition irrational.

In fact, all religions are irrational. Or, to put it euphemistically, supra-rational. In other words, we cannot really evaluate their teachings like we do when we study anatomy or the bust of Britney Spears. It takes more than a mere suspension of disbelief to think of someone who's dead and then ascends the heavens on the third day. That takes FAITH.

Despite the fact that the rightwing Opus Dei was behind Ratzinger's rise as a Pope, that he called students protesting the Vietnam War "ideological terrorists," that as head of the Inquisition he attacked and destroyed the Christian liberation movement of Latin America, that there seemed to be no Latin American fascist he didnt like (such as Pinochet), I nevertheless decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I felt that like John Paul, his predecessor, the august office of a Pope might make him a more inclusive leader. Hence in my arguments regarding his university speech, I called on readers to practise close reading, to see the subtext that, I hoped, was about reaching out to Muslims and thus effect some sort of conciliation with an ancient enemy.

Indeed, as a Pope and as an "intellectual," he ought to have known that not too long ago Christians too regarded their religion as a totalizing one. Calvin's Geneva experiments and the early Puritan theocracy in North America are some examples of what it meant to build God's City on Earth. But the Christians soon changed not because their teachings were particularly humane - unless they threw out the Old Testament - but because of the exigencies of capitalism.

> I'll bet you that you'll have trouble digesting the depth of their truths, ideas and opinions, which are respected worldwide by people from all walks of life.]]

I think you're right. I'm simply not up to your depth, what more that of the Pope's.

Bye for now.

13/09 04:02:06

cruzeiro wrote:

Very nice.
I agree with most of what you have said - however I must say that there was something that was "misleading".

True - all matters of faith are to a certain extent "supra-rational" - he (the Pope) never denied it.

All he tries to profess is that there can be no faith without "reason". He believes as the church today does, that "Reason is the cornerstone of Faith" - unlike that of the Middle ages and the Inquisition (which he has never denied) which led to evil, devoid of reason.

No doubts, they have all made mistakes in the political opinions, for which I do not have the slightest doubt, that they would be willing to admit. Can we accept the same from the "Muslim Leaders"? That is exactly what the bottomline is - Humility and Reason.

In fact Pope John Paul II was also a proponent of the same - only, he projected a very conciliatory image - he was a darling of the press. This guy, (the present Pope) was meanwhile, doing most of the work!

The reason he said those words about the Islamic Faith was becos few, if any, religious leaders of the community resort to "Reason" in matters of faith - that was why the whole discussion the Paleologus was quoted - and was taken out of context by many a Muslim.

That is also the reason why they had come to the conclusion that it is not possible to deal with "Islam the religion" as they do not have any "central authority" (as the shiites) but numerous groups, cultures and societies. In fact, he even gave an example of a discussion forum that ended after three days of arguments on theological matters, with nothing to show, except ill-feeling.

The problem is cultural - if one can take pains to understand other cultures, many problems, even theological, would be solved.


13/09 11:21:16

AussieMalay wrote:

If cruzeiro is to be right, then Islam must find Reason. Exactly what is meant by Reason here is problematic, because Islam crossed into economic, finance, culture, morals, ie. the articles of faith of Islam. That last item is something that confounds me as how Faith can be put down in human terms especially Reason. Not everything can be put down to Reason or 'akal'. While wrong actions of Islam's followers can be questioned, reviewed and condemned, I just cannot comprehend what section or part or sub-section of Islam that needs only Reason and reason alone without mentioning Faith. May be Islamic juriprudence, or political approaches, or economics. But even these are in constant review by Islamic scholars.

So perhaps 'Culture' as mentioned by cruzeiro is perhaps the only problem. Islamic culture? The layers boggles the mind, as we see Muslim Arabs and Indians and others dress their communal habits and customs as Islamic. Again, there is the need to peel the layers to see what is Islamic, what is customary carefully. That's where we have issues with the world outside Islam.

Humility? Again, it exists as a universal value. I see 'humility' as integral in Islam just as in other faiths. But does it mean cauterizing Islam to make it to conform to how others would like to see it? Then why have Islam after all in its given form, when its followers can just cut and paste the versions they want?

Perhaps that's why the West celebrates works by lapsed Muslims like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin because they fail to see reason in Islam in its present form. However, I believe European Muslims will lose their sense of alienation and embrace the larger society. I see it gradually happening. But the hardest part for many if not most is in choosing to keep core Islamic values, not losing them and throwing out the cultural garbage that came along with their parents and themselves. I see in many youths how lost they are when discussing Islam. Their parents more often than not downgraded Islam to a set of rituals leaving their kids open to forces of extremism. Fault-lines? It just lies in both sides of the court.

Cruzeiro, you are right, Culture is the main problem, both ways.

13/09 14:12:03

LChuah wrote:

>In fact Pope John Paul II was also a proponent of the same - only, he projected a very conciliatory image - he was a darling of the press.]]

Of course they're basically the same: both were heavily supported by Opus Dei. Example: John Paul, while critizing Cuba about human rights during his tour of the Americas, had seen fit to ignore the murderous Pinochet, the CIA supported thug who overthrew a democratically elected President and whose neo-Nazis machine-gunned thousands of dissidents, many of them students, at a football stadium. Nevertheless, John Paul's later statements regarding the rights of the poor, the inadmissibility of the neo-liberal ideology, etc., did somewhat mitigate his earlier hawkish stance.

>The reason he said those words about the Islamic Faith was becos few, if any, religious leaders of the community resort to "Reason" in matters of faith]]

Were there "few" Islamic religious leaders who resort to reason or was it because they were ignored in favor of militant and even fanatical ones? Look at this blog: when Muslim intellectuals like Farish Noor attempt to weigh both sides of the Christian-Muslim divide, he's being called all sorts of names and his motives baselessly impugned by some readers. All this on a man who left his own country at least partly because he did not see eye to eye with the authorities on matters of ketuanan Melayu, etc. A man whose biting remarks on Islamic extremism elicited death threats from fanatics in this country, and whose honesty at criticizing the Opposition - which he supported - saw mindless attacks from those who should've known better. Disappointed with what he saw, he withdrew for some time the national discourse on our troubled country. It was because of this that in my Malaysiakini features article (2003?) I called on intellectuals not to give up their tasks in reforming this nation.

In today's fragmented and cybernetic world, opinions about any religious or social issues are no longer monopolized by any "leader," religious or otherwise. Thus, it's not only Islam but all other religions (or political ideologies) that are decentered, including Christianity. That is why we cannot take Pat Robertson's call to assassinate another country's President as an indication that Christianity is a religion of assassins. And this is true within the Catholic Church itself: during the Vietnam War, Cardinal Spelling promoted the idea that to fight in Vietnam was to fight for Christ. It was in opposition to rightwing Catholics that other Catholics, including Fulton, forced some peace clauses in Vatican 11, a document that was subverted and ultimately dismissed by John Paul.

In fact, the propaganda that one couldn't negotiate with Muslims because of their disparate groups is old wine in new bottle. Before finally meeting Gorbachev in Iceland, Reagan used the excuse that "we want to negotiate, but their leaders kept dying" (he was referring to the strange number of deaths of Soviet leaders before Gorbachev). Today, the issue is not so much negotiating with Muslim leaders than to get out of their countries. Do that, and all the "terrorism" would end.

>why the whole discussion the Paleologus was quoted - and was taken out of context by many a Muslim]]

I can name many Western columnists, all non-Muslims, who saw the speech as being anti-Muslim. Even I, a Christian, saw it that way as the quotation was used to frame the entire speech (a classic rhetorical strategy). But as I said, I was more interested in finding commonalities between the two sides than putting one or the other down, and therefore asked Muslims to see the speech as an attempt to reach out to them.

13/09 15:06:06

cruzeiro wrote:

Whoever said that the Pope never made any errors in judgement?

You have every right to do your research of every anti-papist media blitz - and for every one that you come up with I could produce ten for and against Rome!

Of course they did make mistakes in not standing up for numerous issues - and they aren't alone in it.

As for the Regensburg address, while the columnists & you are entitled to your opinion, that doesn't mean you are right, does it?

Of course you are justified in your interpretation of the words, even if it is a distortion of the message.

You may look upon it as anti- Islam, or you may look upon it as a challenge to them to rise to the occasion, and to prove him wrong by acting with reason, without issuing edicts and screaming for blood - the choice is yours!

And it is also your choice if you want to be ignorant of the outright inhuman anti-Christian/reason/logic of the so called holy men who cried foul while calling for blood!

And mind you, being a "Christian" has nothing to do with it - it's about using reason to understand what he said within the context of the address.

Anyway, at least somebody paid attention when the Pope said it .....

Hey LChuah, I'm not here to "defend" the Pope or the Catholic church - just defending "Reason".

Hell man - I don't give two hoots if they admittedly made mistakes - I never said that they were right all the time did I? I don't give a hoot about some moronic political statement made by some Cardinal either. If they were wrong so be it! I'm not gonna lap up everything that some "holy man" says ....

But this I say - as a whole, they were exemplary, considering the complexity and variety of issues they deal with.

As far as Farish is concerned, he too can make mistakes - by being open to criticism and acknowledgment of one's ignorance or weakness, one learns.

Like I said, he's been doing a good job - but in this case, I've made an exception, that's all.

Now, I'm entitled to my opinion am I not?

13/09 17:16:35

LChuah wrote:

AussieMalay wrote:
> Islam must find Reason]]

AussieMalay: early Muslim writers such as Ibn Rashd and Ibn Sina (Averroes and Avicenna) had written on logos long before Greek rhetoric became popular in Western Europe. Avicenna wrote an entire book on Aristotlean syllogisms, and Al Farabi offered commentaries on subjects such as prior and posterior analytics. The problem is that we've people here whose entire knowledge about Islamic logic comes from some dubious websites. It would be safe to say that their entire knowledge of logic - Islamic or otherwise - comes from the same websites as well. Which was why, when I taught at a local univ here (after my retirement), I warned students that anyone using more than 3 online sources would get an "F" in his or her paper. It's time people settle down to read their books than try to be instant experts at anything.

13/09 17:20:40

cruzeiro wrote:

Dear ozmalay,
Thank you for agreeing on that fact about culture - I merely parroted Ratzinger.

Anyway, in your opening para, you had mentioned, "That last item is something that confounds me as how Faith can be put down in human terms especially Reason. Not everything can be put down to Reason or 'akal'. ......I just cannot comprehend what section or part or sub-section of Islam that needs only Reason and reason alone without mentioning Faith. .... But even these are in constant review by Islamic scholars."

Nobody presumes to say that faith should be based entirely on "reason" - it would then become science!

But in saying the above you have unwittingly exposed yourself to the charge that by believing in God, you are making an irrational choice, and "it only takes a leap of faith to be in awe of the starry hosts above, and the moral law within" - this is what Emmanuel Kant said (sort of at least).

One should be aware that in choosing a faith, one has to apply reason, unless you do so by means of a total miraculous revelation or madness.

Do you see the danger of deception here?
Do you see the danger of being led astray by those who claimed to have received some revelation, or an interpretation of a revelation by a “wise scholar” whose thoughts and ideas cannot reach beyond his hat or cap? Have you met any one of them? Well, I have ..... and numerous too!

No knowledge or reason is necessary to know God – but you need it to know yourself, dear sir.

In applying reason, logic - one can decide on many things.
In applying reason & logic, one can decide if interpretations are consistent with the theology.
In applying reason and logic one can see the reason for certain laws.
And one would also be able to understand the very contradictions that are apparently seen in most if not all "holy books'.
It provides for a defense mechanism against lies and deceit of "scholars and politicians and leaders".

But I do concede - Reason, and reason alone cannot be used in the search for truth - but it is a very essential and vital tool towards achieving it.

Too much or too little reason though, may lead to man being "intellectually uncapped, volitionally uncurbed and morally unzippered", to quote a wise man. You then become nothing more than an animal, an organized mass of protoplasm.

This is why we need "Faith" to guide us in our reason and ethics- essential, individual and social ethics.

We then come to the word "Culture".
What is it?
There are many definitions for this word , but I like this -

"It is the manifested behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group."

Do you honestly believe that your behaviour and beliefs are devoid of reason?

I'm not so sure if you do ....

13/09 17:31:04

cruzeiro wrote:

Aah, there you are LChuah - there is reason and logic in Islamic philosophy too - this is the point I was trying to make. Sad that many choose to deny it.

I wish you were a Muslim now ..... ;-)

13/09 17:33:51

LChuah wrote:

Cruzeiro: if you'd been here long enough you've known my heated arguments with some Muslims when they made statements such as "if you're aren't a Muslim you've no right to talk about Islam" and so on and so forth. There's however, a difference between criticisms based on reason and knowledge (logic) and criticisms based on hearsay. Logos is exactly what's at stake: the problem is that some people don't follow what they say. Even though in rhetorical theory ethos and pathos are involved, it's still logos that's most appealing to the thinking man, and most suitable for forensic speeches.

I never said you're not entitled to your opinion, but as you pointed out, it's good to learn from the critique of others.

Have a great day.

13/09 17:36:24

cruzeiro wrote:

Cheers, mate!

13/09 17:43:30