ACCEPTANCE OF MODERNITY September 19, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Multiculturalism.
We live in a multicultural world ridden with injustice and inequality. The West in the immediate past was the standard bearers of modernity, imperialism and Christianity. The past leaves a shadow on the present, and sometimes from out the historical shadows the ghosts of the past make themselves felt on the present.
I do not know enough about philosophy, yet alone theology, to comment authoritatively. I am not in the same league as the Pope, for example. But it is fun, even stimulating, to speculate. I do not care about religion, although I have more respect for the consistency of spiritual practice, something that Mohammed suggests, than for the apparent consistency of theological dogma. Apparently in his earlier impersonation as Cardinal Ratzinger, the current pope described Buddism as “masturbation of the mind.” As well as being gratuitously insulting to Islam, the Pope in his Regensburg University, in which among other things he spoke of universitas, affirming a catholic religious dogma. Pope Benedix XVI sees it as his role to make a stand against moral, I suspect cultural, relativism. These ideas probably arise from Einstein’s paper on relativity published one hundred years ago in 1905.
Catholicism as an institution and a theology were a medieval creation. The same might be said for Islamic theology. While Plato was not unknown, Aristotle was considered the pre-eminent pagan philosopher. And here Benedix is somewhat disingenuous in not attributing the debt that Christendom owed to Islam for its knowledge of Aristotle. Thus began a process of assimilation and integration, described by Maruice Keen in his A History of the Middle Ages:
The commentaries on Aristotle of Arabic philosophers, such as Avicenna and Averroes, raised further disturbing issues. It was from Arabic translations that scholars Sicily and Spain, and especially at Toledo, first made available to the west Latin versions of Aristotle’s works on natural philosphy.
Aristotle’s teachings were often as difficult to square with the Koran as with the Bible.
With this indebtedness and common history is confronting to see Karen Armstrong write in The Guardian:
. . .The Vatican seemed bemused by the Muslim outrage occasioned by the Pope’s words, claiming that the Holy Father had simply intended “to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, and obviously also towards Islam”.But the Pope’s good intentions seem far from obvious. Hatred of Islam is so ubiquitous and so deeply rooted in western culture that it brings together people who are usually at daggers drawn.
. . .Our Islamophobia dates back to the time of the Crusades, and is entwined with our chronic anti-semitism. Some of the first Crusaders began their journey to the Holy Land by massacring the Jewish communities along the Rhine valley; the Crusaders ended their campaign in 1099 by slaughtering some 30,000 Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. It is always difficult to forgive people we know we have wronged. Thenceforth Jews and Muslims became the shadow-self of Christendom, the mirror image of everything that we hoped we were not – or feared that we were.
The fearful fantasies created by Europeans at this time endured for centuries and reveal a buried anxiety about Christian identity and behaviour. When the popes called for a Crusade to the Holy Land, Christians often persecuted the local Jewish communities . . .
Elsewhere the conversation continues. Despite Mark’s best efforts dialogue proves difficult. Just a reminder that the Clash of Civilizations is easier to arrange. Ken Parish introduces Immanuel Kant, whom I suspect has not had much influence on Catholic Theology, more specifically the Pope’s theology.
Because they are medieval, I suspect that both Catholicism and Islam have a problem with modernity, but that may be more true of Catholicism than Islam.