A careful reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech on Faith and Reason, delivered at the University of Regensburg, Germany, on September 12 leaves one with the overwhelming impression of being in the presence of an absolutely world-class intelligence. I could not encourage you more to read and study it entire. At root and on purpose, the speech is a devastating assault on the metaphysical foundation of Islam. It’s become a commonplace to refer to our war with Islamofascism as a “War of Ideas”. The war is now joined for real. The fight Benedict picked with Islam is exactly the fight we need. It is a fight in which Islam is defenseless.
This goes far beyond the Kafkaesque hypocrisy of Moslem barbarians threatening to kill the Pope for accusing Islam of being a religion of violence rather than peace. What Benedict really accused Islam of is being inhuman — because it’s god, Allah, is inhuman. In this speech, the Pope wiped away all the weepy touchy-feely “we all believe in the same God” claptrap. The Pope’s fundamental point was the connection between mankind and the Christian God, and the lack of it with the god of Islam. The point of his now-infamous quote of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1350-1425), whose Christian kingdom was being conquered by the Ottoman Turks and his subjects forcibly converted to Islam:
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… is that “spreading the faith (of Islam) through violence is something unreasonable,” that “violent conversion” is “not to act in accordance with reason,” and “not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.”
The Pope then explains that for Moslems, not to act in accordance with reason is not contrary to Allah’s nature. Allah is not bound by either reason or logic, and thus neither are his believers. For Moslems, explains Benedict, Allah is “absolutely transcendent,” a god whose “will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.” In other words, Allah is a space alien. There is nothing human about him at all, there is nothing divine about us. Allah is some amoral irrational alien from outer space demanding total blind submission — “islam” means “submission” in Arabic — to his will for no reason whatever. His and his believers’ only argument is a sword. It’s like a bad sci-fi horror flick.
In contrasting the Christian God and the connection between “his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason” with a “capricious” Moslem god “who is not even bound to truth and goodness,” Benedict has taken the theological offensive against Islam, criticizing the basic concept of Allah. No wonder the Moose-limbs are coming unglued. And of course they reacted in frenzies of murderous rage. When you abandon reason, your only recourse is intimidation and demands for submission. Yet Benedict was just getting started. Then he explained why the great fantasy of a Solution for Islam — namely, that Islam has to have a Reformation as did Christianity to enter into the modern world — is a waste of time.
Benedict defined the Reformation as an attempt to “dehellenize” Christianity, to decouple Biblical faith from its infusion of the Greek (“Hellenic”) concept of God as Logos providing man with his capacity for rational thought. This “profound encounter of faith and reason,” this “inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry” is, for Benedict what created Europe, and remains today “the foundation of what rightly can be called Europe.”
(Another way of putting this would be that the spiritual culture of Western Civilization is not “Judaeo-Christian” but simply Christian, for Christianity is a Judaeo-Greco fusion. The New Testament, Benedict reminds us, “was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit.”)
The rejection of this fusion by the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin who wished to rely on faith alone disastrously prevents, for Benedict, “theology as inquiry into the rationality of faith.” Yet it is only this kind of rational reasoned inquiry, he argues, that enables “that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.” His conclusion is implicit and obvious: Islam’s concept of Allah makes such inquiry and dialogue impossible. The speech ends with quoting the Byzantine Emperor again:
“Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God,” said Manuel II… It is to the great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our [Moslem] partners in the dialogue of cultures.
Yet having made the argument that such a “dialogue” is not possible with a religion of violence that believes in a space-alien god, Benedict was now speaking in code — which everyone in the Vatican understood. In the Vatican and particularly within Benedict’s inner circle, “dialogue” is a code word for reciprocity. No more “dialogue” consisting of Catholic attempts to appease the bottomlessly hurt feelings of Moslems. No more Moslems being free to build mosques, worship, and proselytize all over the Christian world while they deny religious freedom in their own countries. As Benedict tells his inner circle, Catholics must be “free to fish for souls” in Moslem countries, they must be free to offer Moslems “the Christian proposal.”
I wish him Godspeed with his plan for such reciprocity. Yet there is a far more radical implication to his speech. By exposing the fundamental irrationality at the very basis of Islam — and by the mouth-foamingly rabid response to such exposure that he knew would result from it — Pope Benedict has pronounced a death sentence upon Islam.
He knows that a religion capable of responding to criticism only with violence and incapable — metaphysically incapable — of reasoned dialogue has no future. He knows he is no Manuel II facing vast Moslem armies he has no capacity to withstand. There are no more vast Moslem armies. All that Islam has left are terrorists, suicide bombers, and imams preaching hate. With his deep knowledge of history, Benedict knows history is a graveyard of religions. Thousands upon thousands of gods, once as passionately and devoutly worshipped as Allah is today by multitudes of believers, lie buried underneath thousands of years of history’s dust.
So he knows that the time has come for Allah to die.
The time has come for Islam to be scrapped. It cannot be reformed, it cannot be saved by “moderates” from the “extremists” who have “hijacked” it. It’s finished. Time for folks to spiritually begin anew. Call it a theological application of Gresham’s Law. Bad money drives out the good. It doesn’t matter how many Islamic “moderates” hold up their religious currency and claim it is worth something. When a competing tidal wave of currency floods over them, no matter how bogus or counterfeit they claim it to be, their currency is worthless. Time for new money.
In Gresham and the Currency of Islam (September, 2004), I asked whether the moral currency of Islam is so debased that it can be revived at all. That was two years ago and it now so debased that it is irretrievable. Christianity will survive and triumph because the nexus between God and Man is Man’s Essence, that which makes him both human and “in the image and likeness of God” — his capacity for reason and rational self-examination.
Islam will fail and die because it rejects any such connection. This is what Pope Benedict understands, this is what he meant in his speech. Some day in years to come, there will be a plaque at the University of Regensburg which will read:
On this spot, on September 12, 2006, where Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture on Faith and Reason, the God of Islam known as Allah, died.
Allah is dead.