Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Whose Authority?

Pope Francis has been speaking out against Islamic extremists, claiming that using their religion to justify violence as they do is wrong. "Authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups" he says:

All believers must be particularly vigilant so that, in living out with conviction our religious and ethical code, we may always express the mystery we intend to honor. This means that all those forms which present a distorted use of religion must be firmly refuted as false [...]

I'm glad the Pope is speaking out in this way, trying to use his influence against what is a serious problem.  But why does he think anyone should listen? The President of Venezuela is free to speak out against American foreign policy, but we're free to ignore him.  I dare say Muslims who support terror feel even less attachment to the Catholic Church.

The Pope speaks as if there's a general, agreed-upon thing called religion which has rules everyone must follow, rather than specific religions each with rules of their own--indeed, separate religions that are mutually exclusive.  The Pope is an authority on his own religion (and even there I'm sure many Catholics disagree with him), but how does he have any authority to tell other religions how to act?  If he wants to say other religions are false I can understand that, but to seemingly accept these religions and then interpret what they mean I don't quite get.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet he does it and it has some success

3:51 AM, September 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What success? And isn't his success a sub rosa admission he doesn't believe what he professes to believe?

9:18 AM, September 25, 2014  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Maybe he's following Presidents GWBush and Obama, both of whom have frequently declared that true Islam wants peace, and that terrorists are not true Muslims?

That being said, there can be a certain theological logic behind the pope's words: (1) There is by definition only one God, creator of the universe. (2) Since Muslims, Christians, Jews, philosophical monotheists, and other monotheists profess to worship this God, they all worship the same God as each other. (3) The greatest common denominator among all these religions is philosophical monotheism, which asserts only such things about God as can be demonstrated by human reason. In other words, although Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each believe that God has revealed certain things to them ("revelation"), such revelation can never contradict the core knowledge about God accessible by human reason. (4) It can be shown by human reason that God would never command humans to kill other humans in his name. (Conclusion) Therefore, such a claim is alien to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This was the logic offered by Pope Benedict in his Regensburg Address in 2006. Although Francis rarely spells out his arguments in detail as Benedict did, perhaps this was his intention as well.

That being said, I certainly agree that this won't convince anyone who doesn't already believe it, since such people presumably disagree with premises 3, 4, and possibly 2 of the argument above.

9:51 AM, September 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law school has ruined you, man.

5:36 PM, September 25, 2014  
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