Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Is the Pope Catholic?

The answer appears to be yes. Jacob T. Levy comments on the Pope's speech:

. . . It seems to me that if religion is meaningful it's serious business; if one is committed to divine truths then one is committed to the falsehood of rival claims. By my human standards "No man comes unto the father but through Me" is a terrible way to run a universe; but if there is a God I have no reason to think that His rules will conform to my contingent, twenty-first-century Western liberal human standards. And so I don't expect religious believers to softpedal the exclusionary implications of their beliefs. I don't think Unitarian Universalism is somehow a better religion than Catholicism or Mormonism or Orthodox Judaism just because its god seems to be so nice and inclusive; indeed, my sympathies for the aesthetic and moral-psychological experience of religious belief tends to run the other way. This is a bit like the stance of many American lapsed Catholcic or many Israeli secular Jews, I incline to say, "I don't believe in God, but the God in whom I don't believe is a serious one!" But I don't quite mean that. Rather, I want to say that if there is a point to religion and theology, then that point is undermined by the reluctance to draw distinctions and take them seriously.
. . .

I don't expect Catholics to take their theology less seriously than Muslims do; I certainly don't expect the Pope to take his theology anything less than wholly seriously. And what is a Catholic, committed to the truth of Catholicism, to think of Mohammed's additions to and transformations of the Christian bible? What is a theologically serious Catholic to think about "what Mohammed brought that was new"? At a minimum he or she will think it false--and, because false, evil in distracting religious believers from an all-important truth. And, since Mohammed's additions were not limited to a different understanding of Jesus and Mary but also included different understandings of conduct on earth, of government and laws and codes of behavior, the theologically-serious believing Catholic can be expected to think that the additions are morally bad for persons on earth, independent of the falsehood of the claims about God. And, since Christians (and Jews) are theologically committed to seeing Mohammed as a false prophet, they're hardly likely to feel themselves obliged to offer him the same respect and reverence as those for whom Mohammed's status as a prophet is central to their declaration of faith do.

Neither do I expect Muslim clerics to take their theology less than seriously, or to pay those who stand in the apostolic succession the same respect that believing Catholics do! And I would find it very odd, a category mistake, for the Pope to insist on apologies from every Muslim cleric who describes Christianity or Catholicism as false, evil, or likely to lead humans into sin.

(Via Alex at Detached Observer)


Blogger Jeff said...

Levy makes a good point, but I can't imagine that a few decades ago he even would have had to state something so obvious: namely, that religious people, especially religious leaders, really do believe what they say they believe. I think that in recent years, there's been a tendency by some leaders, pundits, and opinion-makers to see religions as nothing more than political factions in funny clothes. If anything good can come out of these kerfuffles, it's that pundits, politicians, and others who've previously and insufficiently ascribed much human behavior to reductionist motives (like that wondrous catch-all, "poverty") might once again take religions seriously as religions.

September 17, 2006 12:57 AM  

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