Wednesday, September 20, 2006


George Weigel defends the Pope

I admit to being a fool: I rush in where angels fear to tread. I can not resist commenting on an article by George Weigel that appeared in the Los Angeles Times today (September 20). Mr. Weigel is a senior fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is the author of "God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church."

Mr. Weigel writes that the Pope made three points in his speech at Regensburg:
  1. "...All the great questions of life, including social and political questions, are ultimately theological. How we think (or don't think) about God has much to do with how we judge what is good and what is wicked, and with how we think about the appropriate methods for advancing the truth in a world in which there are profound disagreements about the truth of things."

  2. "...Irrational violence aimed at innocent men, women and children 'is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the [human] soul.'"

  3. "The pope's third point...was directed to the West. If the West's high culture keeps playing in the sandbox of postmodern irrationalism — in which there is 'your truth' and 'my truth' but nothing such as 'the truth' — the West will be unable to defend itself. Why? Because the West won't be able to give reasons why its commitments to civility, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law are worth defending. A Western world stripped of convictions about the truths that make Western civilization possible cannot make a useful contribution to a genuine dialogue of civilizations, for any such dialogue must be based on a shared understanding that human beings can, however imperfectly, come to know the truth of things."

To me the third point is especially troubling. I interpret Weigel's words to mean that the West has to accept a single, "true" theology about God and morality before it can reasonably criticize Islam. That is to say, we in the West must accept the Pope's truth. There is no room for diversity of religious beliefs. There is no acceptance of the idea that human morality might be based on something other than a belief in a benevolent God. I can use Weigel's argument, and by extension the argument of Pope Benedict XVI, to assert that countries that follow the teachings of the Buddha (e.g., Thailand, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Tibet) have no basis for any belief in or tradition of decent behavior of humans to each other. Buddhism, you see, is an atheistic religion. Buddhists do not take a position on the existence or the nature of God.
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