Friday, April 18, 2008

Interfaith listening for truth

Continuing his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI met with representatives of other religions at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. In his remarks there, he praised dialogue between faiths, but not for the primary purpose of peace and mutual understanding. Instead, he said, the purpose must be "to discover the truth."

Rather than focusing on what we believe in common, he said, we should "discuss our differences with calmness and clarity."

I think he's right about the approach we should take, but I suspect that he and I have different ideas of what the outcome of such discussions should be.

Ecumenical discussions do no one any good if their only purpose is to blend differing religions into a bland mush. The point is not to grind down any particular faith's sharp edges so what's left is blunt and safe. So Benedict is right to call for discussions where differences are clearly visible and not ignored or hidden away.

He's right, as well, that anyone participating in such talks should "listen attentively to the voice of truth" so that "our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation."

But here's where we differ: I suspect he hopes that attentive listening will convince other-believers that truth is found in Catholicism. He is, after all, the leader of the Catholic Church.

My hope, though, is that those of us who speak clearly and openly of our faith -- of what we have in common as well what divides us -- will strive less to persuade others of our truth than to hear the voice of truth in one another.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that. Religions cannot truly compromise with each other, as each considers itself to be the "truth". Religion is not like science where the players agree on certain ground rules of evidence and discovery.

It's all influence, usually of a violent nature when push comes to shove (as it often does).

The religions that try to be syncretic such as the Bahai's, get derided as blasphemers.

It's not like one religion can "prove" another wrong. The rules of "faith" don't allow that.

And faith can blow up mountains.

Anonymous said...

Jane many of us want to get a Harrahs casino near the downtown area ; We think this will really stir the sluggish economy here and create excitement. Some predict we could get revenue ,as much as , three billion a year from this venue. The State lottery would be cease and desisted and paid their by out fee by Harrahs. We believe that the hotel industry would get better and larger and more work come here as a result. Jane 'can go you tell it on the Mountain' so to speak and let us know.

Lazarus said...

Interfaith dialogue is a tricky one. While I applaud Jane's call to discuss difference and not boil it down to a bland mush, I also agree with Anonymous that religions often are so convinced of their own "one truth", that active listening and compromise, even in dialogue, is truly impossible. Consider the nature of faith and ask "What do you have faith in"? Some will answer that their faith is in the correctness and certainty of their belief. They have "truths" which they have chosen to believe for any number of reasons. These folks start from a conclusion and work their way back in any discussion, from then end to the beginning. Their religion is based on certainty and sameness. This is what I like to call the anti-intellectual/emotional conclusion idea. I believe Anonymous was speaking of this kind of religious perspective, one based upon certainties, with little need or desire for interfaith dialogue other than to convince others to join them in their "rightness". I think this is what the Pope is probably after. This line of religious thinking has deep insecurities imbedded within, masked by the outer certainties.

There are other religious perspectives though! Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. As a Wiccan I see my religion as a man-made attempt to encounter, experience, and understand the Divine operating as natural laws in the universe. We may name these intelligences and laws Gods and create a human-appearing personal "interface" with which to experience them, but ultimately, my religion is a system meant to help a human being interpret the mysteries of the Divine. This religious perspective does have a certainty, too. However this certainty does not squash the mystery, it lays a foundation for which to explore that mystery. The certainty is simple. I am one and the same with the Divine I seek to know and experience. My religious process is about removing the illusions that keep me from experiencing this Unity. That's it. All the initiation rights, elevations, circle casting, etc are all just man-made forms meant to help my consciousness unfold enough to experience the mystery. They mystery is about how I am connected, who I really am as a spiritual being, what God really is, what information can I gather, and how can apply the spiritual truths I've learned to heal myself and others.

Because my religious perspective expects a mystery instead of a certainty, I fully expect others on a spiritual quest to be in different places than I am, on different paths, etc. From this perspective, interfaith dialogue is about discovering and celebrating how human systems of religious practice help their followers embrace that mystery, enriching and healing their lives.

So Anonymous, you are correct about some of the people some of the time. But there are many others out there, ready, willing, and able to be grown ups about our religion. We are ready to face the jagged edges and embrace the difference. Diversity is the natural order... Just look at our best lab for understanding it, which is Nature Herself. Life comes in billions of varieties. And that's just on this planet.

Thanks again Jane for asking tough questions and not shying away from controversy.

Lazarus.

Gamecock said...

The most important truth regarding affairs in this world that needs to be acknowledged and acted upon just now is for Islamic leaders to emulate the tolerance of the Christian west. See Piss Christ and Virgin Mary cow dung art, and the lack of violence in response vs Depictions of Mohammad, cartoons, Rushdi fatwa, etc and the violent reactions of Muslims and lack of any major leadership within Islam to clean up their own act.

They need a Reformation.

As to THE most pressing truth, Jesus directs us to GO YE and preach the gospel so that more souls are saved.

Gamecock said...

Lazarus

Good points. But one of the best examples of ecumenical cooperation are the protestants, catholics, jews and muslims on the religious right for the last 35 years in their fights for life.

Anonymous said...

Islam is far away from an Enlightenment, that's for sure.

But I think they do serve a purpose in showing others just how extreme religion can be without strong secular forces opposing it. Christianity didn't stop being the way Islam is now without a fight.

Most of what we experience now as tolerance between religions is not due to religious, but to secular influences. We pretty much take a secularized Christianity for granted now.

And while there are some religious people out there who are open to the ideas of other religions, they are still a minority. And generally persecuted harshly where they meet with their less tolerant brothers. Muslims, for example, hate Bahai's.

Christianity today is largely secularized. Religious authority is nothing like it was in the past. And this bothers a lot of people, especially now that they see what TRUE religious belief can be like in Islam.

Most Muslims drop everything they are doing and kneel on the floor to pray 5 times a day, EVERY day,
and not just drive their SUV's to the local church/recreation center/daycare/pleasure palace for a sermon for an hour a week.

Not many Christians out there can really say that they would die for their religion. Well, they can SAY it, but they rarely actually DO it as Muslims do.

If anything, many Christians (at least in the U.S.) seem to yearn for that old time religion that many Muslims never abandoned.

But it's hard to do that in the U.S. At some point, the gov't will send in the troops to snatch your babies if you try to practice religion the way it really was meant to be done, strictly according to some guidebook written over a few millennia ago.

But even so, I think we are more likely to see a less tolerant Christianity than Islam experiencing anything remotely like an Enlightenment.

Gamecock said...

anonymous said:

1 - "Islam is far away from an Enlightenment, that's for sure."

Yes, but the more we empower moderate Muslims, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the better. Would that Europeans grow spines and quit surrendering to homegrown misfits within their borders.

2 - "But I think they do serve a purpose in showing others just how extreme religion can be without strong secular forces opposing it. Christianity didn't stop being the way Islam is now without a fight."

Christianity was NEVER like Islam is now. Not even close. Judaism helped civilize the Middle East and Christianity did the same in the West. Yes, the corruption of the Church in Europe as a political player was a problem. But the human carnage of secular powers antagonistic to faith (see Communism and Nazism) dwarfs thousands fold, the total of all Christian persecution deaths in history.

It is no accident that it was only in the Christian west that abolished slavery on moral grounds, or that a MLK and Gandhi could only make non-violent appeals successful among populations of Christians.

It was the turning away from God in late 19th and early 20th C. Germany and Russia that led to their record breaking carnage.

The Pope's Regensburg speech is very instructive in explaining to secular Europe the connection between the environment of tolerance and Christianity.

All religions are not equal.

I hope that the western left learns the right lessons from the example of radical Islam, and eschews appeasement of evil.

3 - "Most of what we experience now as tolerance between religions is not due to religious, but to secular influences. We pretty much take a secularized Christianity for granted now."

see above

4 - "And while there are some religious people out there who are open to the ideas of other religions, they are still a minority. And generally persecuted harshly where they meet with their less tolerant brothers. Muslims, for example, hate Bahai's."

open?

5 - "Christianity today is largely secularized. Religious authority is nothing like it was in the past. And this bothers a lot of people, especially now that they see what TRUE religious belief can be like in Islam."

The Christian churches that are secularized are dying. The decline in respect for judeo-christian values is a bigger threat to this country and the free world than any other force.

In Islamo-facism we see the same evil we saw in Nazis and Communists.

6 - "Most Muslims drop everything they are doing and kneel on the floor to pray 5 times a day, EVERY day,
and not just drive their SUV's to the local church/recreation center/daycare/pleasure palace for a sermon for an hour a week."

most muslims? no way

7 - "Not many Christians out there can really say that they would die for their religion. Well, they can SAY it, but they rarely actually DO it as Muslims do."

Christianity doesn't ask one to die for their religion. God died for us. And for you to suggest that there is any equivalence between what a devout Christian should do with what suicide bombers do is evidence either laziness on your part; purposeful prevarication or ignorance of what the Bible teaches vs what the Koran teaches.

8 - "If anything, many Christians (at least in the U.S.) seem to yearn for that old time religion that many Muslims never abandoned."

Most Muslims actually did give up the old time religion of Mohammed's conversion by force. They "re-interpreted" the Koran's explicit admonishions to violence. The problem is what the book actually says, which is part of the source of Osama and co's power.

The Bible, on the other hand, while recounting PAST admonishions to violence in a different context, NOWHERE commands any conversion by force, ever, nor does it command any violence for any religious purpose in the future.

Christians yearn for a government, courts and cultural institutions that are not hostile to them. That's all.

1- - "But it's hard to do that in the U.S. At some point, the gov't will send in the troops to snatch your babies if you try to practice religion the way it really was meant to be done, strictly according to some guidebook written over a few millennia ago."

may be some truth to this

good point

11 - "But even so, I think we are more likely to see a less tolerant Christianity than Islam experiencing anything remotely like an Enlightenment."

we disagree

Anonymous said...

Actually, at one time in our history, Christians were the backward barbarians while Muslims were the civilized ones. So the Christians were like the Muslims are now.

If it weren't for the Muslim preservation of ancient Greek literature the Western world would not have had its eventual re-awakening to the knowledge of the Greeks and become what it is today.

Unfortunately, this transfer of knowledge -through the Crusades- the Christians did such damage to the more tolerant Muslims that they haven't recovered to this day.

Anonymous said...

And as for the Nazi's, they were good Christians. Don't forget their slogan "Gott Mit Uns". They were mostly good Catholics. A lot of Nazi leaders were smuggled to South America by the Catholic Church. The Nazi's can't be blamed on secularism.

Gamecock said...

anonymous

The cult of death that is the islamists are below barbarians and the Christian Church's episodes of extremism were short lived and the carnage does not compare to that of the atheist nazis and commies.

The Crusades were not even religious wars by Christians as they are often misrepresented. They were attempts to RE-TAKE territory the muslims took and then forced conversions at the point of a spear.

The west is not responsible for radical Islam.

The Nazis were not Catholic.

Educate yourself and then tell me the commies were just kidding about the whole atheism thing as well. I notice you left them out.

Read. Learn. Stop the slander of Christianity and face the facts about pagans and atheists.

excerpt

"Many atheists presume that the Nazis were a weird variation of Christianity.

The sources that I use come from very old books, rather than Wikipedia. I own these books and the books were written during the very years in which Nazism came to power. The authors of these books came from a wide variety of perspectives -- Christian, Jewish, atheist, Marxist and the like.


Christianity had declined severely in Germany at the time the Nazis came to power, which is why the Nazis were able to come to power. In his book, The Dictators, Richard Overy states that in the decades preceding the First World War Germany was becoming increasingly secular, and that after that war, from 1918 to 1931, 2.4 million Evangelical Christians formally renounced their faith as well as almost half a million Catholics. In Prussia, only 21% of the population took communion and in Hamburg only five percent of the population took communion. Before Hitler, German religious leaders were publicly condemning the rise of moral relativism and decline of traditional religious values.


Weimar Germany largely had abandoned Christianity and increasingly was embracing hedonism, Marxism and paganism. There, decline of Christianity in Germany led directly to the rise of Nazism. Professor Henri Lichtenberger in his 1937 book, The Third Reich, describes the religious life of the Weimar Republic as a place in which the large cities were "spiritual cemeteries" with almost no believers at all, except for those who were members of the clergy. The middle class went through the motions, but lacked all living faith. The workers, influenced by socialism, were suspicious of the church. Even in the countryside, preachers had little influence on the people. In the 1938 book, The War Against God, by Sidney Dark and R.S. Essex, describes pre-Nazi antipathy toward Christianity by noting that churches had lost all their vitality and that their services were lifeless. Mower, in his 1938 book, Germany Puts the Clock Back, wrote that by 1920, God and Christianity had been in steady decline, a process that had begun in 1860. Mower talks about a culture not so much casual as vicious about sexuality. He writes of art sickened into atonal music, about the absence of any sense of sin, about entire graduating classes in high school turning up for birth control devices, and about the commonplace occurrence of abortion."

That excerpt should whet your appetite for the whole article.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/11/the_nazis_and_christianity.html

Gamecock said...

Christians ended slavery

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DineshDSouza/2008/01/14/how_christians_ended_slavery

Gamecock said...

The Godless Delusion

The recent spate of anti-theistic books presents nothing really new. People have been making arguments against the existence of God for a long, long time. Why is there evil in the world? Why do religious people sometimes do bad things? Why do we need God, if science will soon be able to explain everything? These questions reflect the Godless Delusion, an inversion of the book by Dawkins.


There is evil in the world because people choose evil. Each of us has a conscience. We instinctively know what is right and wrong. But knowing and doing are two different things. Often it is easier to do evil than to do good. Often evil appears more alluring than goodness. The source of evil may be identified as the Devil, but it is more precisely a rejection of God. When God is at the center of our lives, then evil is not.


The term "religious people" is meaningless. All people - especially militant anti-theists - are religious. The vital question is what one's religion believes. What I call "The Great Faith" of the Judeo-Christian heritage believes in a loving, good and just God - a Blessed Creator, as devout Jews might put it.


The history of Judeo-Christians is profoundly different than the history of other religious peoples, including religious anti-theists. The religious people of pre-Columbian American Mexico conquered other tribes simply to sacrifice them to Aztec gods. The religious people of Imperial Japan committed unspeakable crimes against the Chinese in following their national religion. The religious Nazis, who loathed passionately both Christianity and Judaism, committed unspeakable crimes against Jews, Poles and others. The religious anti-theists of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China murdered more than any other religion in history. And, of course, radical Islam murders indiscriminately.


No crimes of Judeo-Christians remotely approaches the holocausts of Aztecs, Japanese, Nazis, atheist Russia or atheist Japan. Why? Because all religions are not the same. Some religions are good and some religions are bad. Almost every single movement or belief which we now consider good originated in Christianity or Judaism. Abolitionism, prison reform, compassion for animals, equality before the law, medical science, systematic intellectual inquiry - nearly everything - traces back to a Christian or a Jew.


If the anti-theists want to pick on Christians and Jews (and that does seem to be the real thrust of militant atheism) for sometimes acting badly, it is imperative to note that both Christianity and Judaism accept the notion of sin. Both faiths believe that we all morally fail sometimes and both faiths have a religious process for repentance and renewal, which allows us to live moral lives, even if all lives are imperfect. Does this work? Again, the history of Jews and Christians is a testament that serious faith produces, quite simply, the best people on earth.


What of the new god, Science? One of the most compelling facts of science is that it debunks itself. Maxwell, one of the the greatest physicists in history (and a devout Christian), worked out the equations in the 1860s which postulated that the speed of light is finite. Michaelson and Morley decades later calculated the speed of light at 186,000 miles per second. God created an absolute bar to what we can ever know about reality that is 187,000 miles away from us at the moment of our birth and is traveling at the speed of light away from us. This is not a theoretical bar: it is an absolute, irrevocable bar.


At the subatomic level, we can never predict exactly what will happen. The Uncertainty Principle, which has been loitering inconveniently around the science of Quantum Physics for about eighty years, still rules. Quantum Mechanics always allows for an excellent statistical expectation of what will happen at the subatomic level, but it never allows certainty. God has created another absolute bar to human knowledge.


One might think that those who worship science would wake up. Knowing much beyond what we already know about the universe is increasingly improbable. No serious person today can think that material benefits will make us happier - not in a society in which the greatest health problem is obesity and the greatest emotional problem is boredom.


And how do we sate our boredom? Increasingly, our entertainment is horrific and perverse. Our obsession with violence, promiscuous sex and dangerous drugs is as obvious as the cure to those sicknesses: God. Without God, we cannot even imagine anything good (if you doubt that, try to imagine Heaven.) Those who reject God suffer from the Godless Delusion.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/11/the_godless_delusion.html

Anonymous said...

Gamecock,

last time I've counted God (and his com-padres) killed around 2 million people (those one can count, I am not counting the unnumbered deaths) as described in the Bible. If we count the flood and other horrific events triggered by God (including tsunamis etc...) the count goes way up. Not to mention spontaneous abortions of unborn babies.

Compared to all that Nazis and Stalin were amateurs.

Gamecock said...

The Flood - 2 million
Nazis - 6 million
Mao - 20 million
Stalin - 20 million

So by your criteria, God is the amateur.

However, God gets to be God, not man, and it appears that the wages of sin are death, and that all will eventually die.

But I find it very telling that you bait and switch from the Christian Church to God and have abandoned your defense of secularism.

Now do the math.

P.S. I am pleased that you are now informed, i.e. better educated on Nazis.

I take a bow.

Anonymous said...

Gamecock, I said not counting the flood, just the numbered victims in the Bible it is over 2 million. Flood was not numbered in the Bible and was almost 100% of the population of all animals on Earth (human is biologically animal).

Re: Nazi education. Your info is really interesting but false. As always pictures can tell a thousand words so here.

Perhaps even an oath:

Hitler Oath:

I swear by God,
this holy oath,
to the F├╝hrer of the German Reich and people.
Adolf Hitler...

And more mementoes.

Now you tell me this was a secular movement?

So lets take the worse thing for atheists that Hitler was an atheist pretending being a Catholic. What does that tell you? That he knew what would get people excited and what would work. He tool the appearance of a Catholic/Christian on order to take advantage of people who were conditioned by their religion and thus ready audience to do the bidding. Basically he did same thing as Stalin - used pre-conditioned audience.

It is also important to know the strength of the weapons that one could have used at the time to do the killings. During the crusades and inquisition mass weapons were just not as readily available as during first half of 20th century.

So perhaps we should look into today's events and see which kind of population blows up car bombs and fly planes in the buildings? If we look at the Balkan wars in early 90s of the last century, we can see Catholics vs. Eastern Orthodox vs. Muslims for example.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous wrote, "And as for the Nazi's, they were good Christians. Don't forget their slogan "Gott Mit Uns". They were mostly good Catholics. A lot of Nazi leaders were smuggled to South America by the Catholic Church. The Nazi's can't be blamed on secularism."

That is the biggest load of cow-cookies I have ever heard. Anyone can say, "God mit uns." Jesus said, "...not everyone who cries, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven."

Christians are identified by theuir LOVE, not by their slogans or language.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous [Iztok, your writing style and one-track mind give you away] wrote, "last time I've counted God (and his com-padres) killed around 2 million people (those one can count, I am not counting the unnumbered deaths) as described in the Bible. If we count the flood and other horrific events triggered by God (including tsunamis etc...) the count goes way up. Not to mention spontaneous abortions of unborn babies.

Compared to all that Nazis and Stalin were amateurs."

Still on that spontaneous abortion wave, eh, Iztok? I noticed that as soon as we discovered that all your rants on these forums were cut-and-pasted from an atheist's instruction booklet (website) you seem to have gone into hiding.

Danbo59 said...

Tha Catholic (Universal) Church ws and still is the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Every priest and every Pope can trace their ordinations all the way back to St. Peter, the first Pope of the Church. Absolute truth rests with the Heavenly Church, and the Catholic Church is charged with bringing those truths to the people of the world.

Sorry, but once you break off from Christ's Church, you make your own religion -- you become your own Pope. Cafeteria Catholics are just as lost in this regard. You can't pick and choose what you agree with and what you don't agree with in the Catholic Church -- the true Church founded by and still headed by Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so now we use the "Not A True Christian" argument against the Nazis. How convenient that anyone who doesn't show "love" cannot be a Christian.

Who, then, were all those men in religious garb giving a hearty Seig Heil? Undercover atheists?

Gamecock said...

Count those not in religeous garb. And read the links I sent with the truth. Cure your ignorance.

Lazarus said...

Gamecock Wrote... "It is no accident that it was only in the Christian west that abolished slavery on moral grounds, or that a MLK and Gandhi could only make non-violent appeals successful among populations of Christians."

I believe Gandhi preached non-violence after learning it from the Jains of India. And he used that knowledge to lead Indians - mostly Hindus, not Christians - to overthrow the colonial power of the British and install a Democracy, the largest in the world, in a mostly Hindu country.

I'm just saying.....

Anonymous said...

Of course, most people aren't going to be wearing religious garb. Those are the religious elite, the leaders, the "moral authorities" you see in those photos. The lay folk are the ones wearing the Nazi uniforms.

The Catholic Church is even starting to admit their role in all this, so maybe you should do some research yourself.

And while you may claim religion had everything to do with freeing slaves, it didn't stop the good churches in Germany from using Nazi captives for "free" labor (excepting room and board, of course, which I assume was lavish).

Send out all the spindoctors you can muster. The truth is still out there.

God is Love and Islam is Peace, right?

Gamecock said...

Lazarus

Yes, I should have emphasized that Ghandi and King were successful against government powers that were populated by Christians. The British occupiers in India were Christians.

Gamecock said...

anonymous

Anti-theism is as much a matter of faith/religion as the various theistic religions. Your secular vs religion dichotomy tells one nothing, as it assumes all religions are equal.

They are not. The Greeks and Romans had massive slavery. History shows that Christianity is superior.

The links I sent you above spell this out in much detail. You choose to ignore my arguments and then bait and switch. I quite understand why since you desperately don't want to give up your faith in anti-theism.

I haven't the time to to be the only thinker that responds to evidence in a debate. So take it up with someone else.

Anonymous said...

Who assumes all religions are equal? I haven't seen anyone say or imply that.

Maybe the reason no one wants to debate your evidence is that it's crap.