Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Christian & Religious Apologetic

I recently had a discussion/argument with someone about how the modern world seems to have a major “hangup” on Christianity, religion, clergy, ritual, etc. There seems to be a growing number of people resorting to a kind of “Christian-bashing” because they feel religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, is the source of many (if not all) of our current problems (the same has also been extended to Islam over the last few years). I don’t agree with them, because I think it’s not as black and white as that, and I believe Catholicism has done a lot of good for us and is a beautiful religion, regardless of those few who abuse it.

Nowadays we hear about the collapse of Catholicism (though, I feel, while it is not as popular as it was and holds less power now, it’s not the same type of collapse as, say, the Nazis, and I have heard people compare Catholicism to Nazism [as well as others saying the same thing about various political parties], which I believe is an extremely insulting exaggeration). We hear about pedophile priests and the Church’s cover-up of that. We hear about religious wars, the persecution of minority faiths, the tyranny of Church leaders, etc., etc. But do we ever hear about the millions of people who live a happy and fulfilling life as a Christian? Do we hear about those thousands of priests who have not only not committed a crime, but are outraged by what fellow priests have done, and are actually contributing to the benefit of many of the members of our society? Do we hear about all those many Christian charities and people who want to spread the love of God? These things don’t make the news; there won’t be an article on charitable clergy and laity on the front page of the papers; there won’t be radio coverage of the good deeds done in the name of religion.

I’ve heard so many people say things like “Nothing good has come out of religion” or that all Christians are misguided or that all clergy are abusing their position, abusing power (all of which are gross exaggerations). One person I met on a forum recently asked why “Religion” and “Spirituality” were grouped together – they said “they’re [two] complete different things like chalk and cheese”, and that “religion … divides people and spirituality doesn’t”. Not only is that a naïve sentiment, in my opinion, as spirituality can just as easily divide people, like anything else – but it is also a divisive comment. The two were grouped together and this person wanted them separated as if religion was not a spiritual thing, as if religious people somehow are not following a spiritual path.

Now, just because I think that some good has come from religion and the like, and just because I feel we should not be so quick to dismiss an entire faith and long-lasting tradition (that, by the way, is based on even older myths, and is our tradition), this doesn’t mean that I’m either approving Fundamentalism (as it is today in its most negative guise) or saying we should not act against iniquities and inequalities. I don’t like Fundamentalism anymore than the rest of you, whether it is Christian, Islamic, or other. I think it’s an unhealthy extremism. I don’t like the problems of this world, and I feel we should act on them. We need to address iniquity, war, poverty, famine, corruption, and other forms of injustice. But religious ignorance is not the only problem out there, and I think we need to address our own ignorance when we slam another faith, regardless of whether it is being abused or not.

Ironically enough, I wrote this essay two days ago, but decided to hold off on posting it ‘til today. Yesterday I heard that Pope Benedict XVI made blatantly insulting and inflammatory remarks regarding Islam when he quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said that Muhammad and Islam had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. The Vatican has said that the Pope meant no disrespect or insult (though really, how could such a statement not be taken as disrespectful and insulting to Islam?), but the Muslim world have called for him to make a public apology (which I agree with, even if it wasn’t intended as an insult, because quoting such material is just bad taste in our current climate, especially to come from someone so many people look up to and whose opinion they trust as truthful).

What can we learn from this most recent event? No, we should not use it as yet another excuse to defame Christianity, but why not do better than the Pope? Why not try to demonstrate to people that we can live in a world with respect for all religions, faiths, and spiritual paths? If we think the Catholic Church is judgemental, insulting to other faiths, and closed-minded to other opinions, then why should we do likewise and judge all Christians, insult Christianity, and consider Christian opinion as wrong or confused?

[Feel free to replace “Christianity”, etc. with any other religion here, because the same applies for all]


Joe Daher said...

Two Things:


I believe Catholicism has done a lot of good for us and is a beautiful religion, irregardless of those few who abuse it.

The word "irregardless" is redundant and should just be "regardless." Sorry, my mother's an English teacher. ;-)


Yesterday I heard that Pope Benedict XVI made blatantly insulting and inflammatory remarks regarding Islam when he quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said that Muhammad and Islam had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things.

The remark in question was not meant to be insulting, because the Pope only quoted the dialouge - he did not make any pro or con statements about it. Also - the comment was not that Muhammad had brought ONLY evil and inhuman things to the world, but the comment was made that he brought SOME evil and inhumane things; specifically Islamic Jihad as the way to spread religion.

Not really trying to defend the Pope's comments (they were pretty stupid, but the message was meant to speak out against Jihad), but I feel a little injustice was given His Grace at this particular moment.

That's it. That's all I wanted. Now I'll leave ya' be. :-)

Dean Wilson said...

Regarding "irregardless" - thanks for catching that :)

As for the Pope's comment, I'm well aware that he was quoting from someone and not saying it himself, but given the current political climate, I think it was in very poor taste and did not specify that this was in regard to Jihad alone. I mean, why not just say that instead of quoting someone who's generalising about Islam? All that said, I understand that he may not have meant offense, and I certainly won't hold it as a reason to hate him or anything. He's still human and liable to mistakes - the problem here is that he's such a revered figure throughout the world that I do wonder why he/his speech writers/editors weren't more careful in how such a thing was likely to come across (again, given the political climate).

The "only" part was what was stated on my Irish News source (on TV and in print). That was part of why I found the comments offensive. If I had known the word "some" was used, it would be much less insulting (as it's less generalising). So, in this case, I blame the media :P

That's all you wanted? *gets offended* ;)


Dean Wilson said...

Hey Joe, just done some extra research and found that every news source I looked at included the word "only". Indeed, here's the direct quote from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus:

"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."

So, regardless of whether it was intended to insult or not, I feel it is quite a careless quote for a world religious leader to use.


Joe Daher said...


Hmm. Maybe I need to get a hearing aid.

I could've sworn it said...

Oh, well. I sit corrected. ;-)

zeph said...

Regardless of any minor typos, this is a very good article, DW. Well thought out and, yes, applicable toward any belief system (or lack thereof): Why is it so hard for people to tolerate that which is different from themselves?

Personally, I think it comes from being insecure in one's own beliefs, but I suppose that would be another article entirely, eh?

Thanks for writing this.