Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Religious dogmatism Is The Curse Of The Twenty First Century

Pope Benedict will encourage this kind of thing, but forget the praying together kind of thing.


There sure seems to be a lot of anger inducing stories hitting the news lately.  One that sent my blood pressure too high involved the so called Rev. Terry Jones, and his fanatical need to burn the Koran. In the following excerpted article the president of the Pakistani bishops' conference poses an interesting question:  Why hasn't Jones been detained for his actions?

 Archbishop: Arrest Quran burning US pastor

By Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service - 4/4/2011

LONDON -- The president of the Pakistani bishops' conference has called for the arrest of a U.S. Protestant pastor whose decision to burn the Islamic sacred book has caused fury in the Muslim world and the deaths of more than 20 people.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, conference president, said the U.S. government should seek to diffuse mounting tensions by detaining the Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center Church in Gainesville, Fla., who oversaw the burning of the Quran by the Rev. Wayne Sapp, his assistant.

"The U.S. government should detain the pastor for some time," Archbishop Saldanha told the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity for persecuted Christians around the world.
"In view of the effects his actions have had all over the world, he should be controlled and understand the harm that has been done," he said in an April 4 telephone interview.

"The U.S. government talks about religious freedom -- but we call upon the U.S. government to prevent such actions by extremists and other fundamentalist Christians," the archbishop said.
He added that although there had been no reports of attacks on Pakistani Christians by Muslims outraged by the Quran burning, he said he feared that the situation "could become ugly.".......

....Last year, Rev. Jones announced his intention to burn 200 copies of the Quran on a "burn the Quran day" to mark the al-Qaida terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
His decision to burn a Quran last month was described as "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry" by U.S. President Barack Obama in an April 2 statement. "However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity," Obama added.
Jones is under round-the-clock protection from the FBI, having received more than 300 death threats.


The death toll from the Islamic equivalents of Terry Jones now stands at 24. These are not Christian martyrs. They are innocent victims of religious fanatics gone amok precipitated by the acts of other religious fanatics.  Terry Jones should be a nobody toiling away in obscurity, but Western media made him an international celebrity of sorts back in August and American law makes him untouchable in order to protect his freedom to agitate to take freedoms away from others. I can easily see why non Americans like Archbishop Saldahna do not get American jurisprudence.  It does seem perfectly senseless and without reasonable boundaries.  With cases like Terry Jones, I'm not sure I get it either.

President Obama called Jones' act "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry", but in reality it was more than that.  It was an act guaranteed to put our military at even higher risk in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Some could see what Jones did as an act of treason.  Some could see what Jones did as equivalent to shouting fire in a crowded theater.  Jones himself sees it as an act destined to produce what it did, violence and murder.  He sees the results of his act as confirmation for why he engaged in his act.  I'm sure he does not see his 'prescience' as the direct result of correctly reading his own self projection in the others he despises.  

Religious dogmatism is the scourge of the twenty first century.  The major religions of the book, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity not only seem incapable of effectively dealing with their dogmatic brethren, but in too many cases cater to them--as if they are terrified that the emotion behind all that dogmatism will be turned on them.  Pope Benedict is in the process of catering once again to Catholic dogmatists.  He is assuring them, that when the leaders of the world's religions meet in Assisi this summer, he will not be praying with those leaders as they all work for world peace.  He will stick to Catholics for his praying, and only give a speech to the other religious and secular leaders---leaders the Vatican itself has invited to Assisi:

"Every human being is ultimately a pilgrim in search of truth and goodness," the Vatican statement said.
The search requires people to enter into dialogue with others, "believers and unbelievers alike, without sacrificing one's own identity or indulging in forms of syncretism" where elements of different religions are used indiscriminately, the statement said.

"To the extent that the pilgrimage of truth is authentically lived, it opens the path to dialogue with the other, it excludes no one and it commits everyone to be a builder of fraternity and peace. These are the elements that the Holy Father wishes to place at the center of reflection," the Vatican said.

The statement said Pope Benedict will prepare for the Assisi gathering by hosting a prayer service with Catholics from the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 26.

I guess the Vatican's fear of religious syncretism is the new pc expression for what we used to think of as profaning our Catholic ceremonies by inviting the impure non Catholic into our sanctuaries.  I was under the impression that Vatican II had a different take on this, and that JPII had confirmed that in his appearances at Assisi where he actually did pray with member of other faiths.  At the same time and place no less, but I see now that my impressions are no longer valid.  In the interests of protecting our Catholic identity, it is apparent that actually praying with member of other faith traditions, as opposed to having coffee and donuts with them,  is no longer kosher.  Ritual purity is once again in vogue.

What irritates me the most about the dogmatism demonstrated by Terry Jones and the Islamic rioters, is that they serve as a perfect cover for other dogmatists who secretly egg them on while hiding their own similar thinking behind kinder gentler language.  For every Terry Jones on the Christian right, there are a hundred less inflammatory pastors preaching a similar Islamic message.  In Islamic countries there also seems to be no shortage of essentially fundamentalist Imams using kinder words but preaching the same sorts of exclusive ritual purity messages that fueled twenty thousand Muslims into attacking a UN compound and killing innocent civilians there to actually help them live better lives.  But again, the really sad thing about all of this is they are exactly what they hate in the man who burned their Quran.  

And as for Benedict, well, he already precipitated one mindless weekend of rage in the Islamic world with his Regensburg address.  Maybe it is a good idea that he keep his praying with in the safe confines of St Peters and with his fellow Catholics.  There's just something sadly right about this pope praying with true believers in fortress Catholicism before he goes out to encourage the rest of the world to engage in open dialogue and seek peace and fraternity.  That's the hall mark of dogmatism, it is perfectly stellar at holding utterly contradictory notions via air tight intellectual compartmentalizationAnd so Benedict will not be praying with Muslims at the Basilica of St. Francis, a church dedicated to a saint who helped avoid a catastrophic war with the Islamic world by praying with Muslims.  Go figure.


  1. The bias of Western perspective. It seems so antiquated to act in this manner when most of the world has moved on. My wonderful parish priest started his ministry in Pakistan and was always respectful of differences of religion. Catholics have been persecuted in Pakistan.

    I wish the vatican would listen to some of the bishops and cardinals from the east. They can provide true insight into what it means to be a religious minority. How different the church might be if it only listened.


  2. I agree p2p, the Church would be very different if the Vatican listened--even if that listening was only to all of it's bishops.

  3. Have a look 'round for a staggering (in scholarly depth, to say nothing of the sheer number of volumes) series of books called "The Fundamentalism Project," edited by Martin Marty, out of the University of Chicago.

  4. A person's freedom stops where the other person's freedom starts. Yes, there should be freedom of religion. One may practice his faith as long as he desires but not to the point of overstepping other people's freedom to choose whatever religion he may want to believe in.We may have different religions but we both believe in a God that is Good. our belief in God should be enough to make us respect other people despite the differences. In the Christian belief, I don't think there's ever been a part there that says disrespect other people who are not of your same religion. In Islam, there's a part that says -- 'You unto your religion and Me, unto my religion.' Respect, that's all everyone needs. Even your God will spat down on you if you think you are better than others because of your differences.

  5. Respect, I surely hope more people begin to see the wisdom in your words. And I am sure my God will 'spit down on me' if I think I am better than others, not because of differences, but because I was too dense to see our mutual truths.