Portrait of a Pope, Peddling Backwards or: Just Roll the Dice Already!

 [Update below]

After pissing off the Muslim world (again) Pope Rat said this weekend that when he said that Muslims were filthy barbarians and that Islam was a religion of violence, he was just quoting a predecessor, from the 14th century. Memo to the Pope (who, I’m sure reads this blog): If you’re trying to win over the Muslim world, here and now in the 21st century, it’s probably best not to quote from a document that dates from the tail end of the Crusades. They’re a tad sensitive about that whole time period.

Of course, this is all based on the common assumption that the Pope really was trying to open a genuine dialogue with the Muslim world. But let’s be honest, Pope’s aren’t known for their ecumenical olive branches (JP II aside, and even he had limits). Pope Benny “I never was a Nazi, really” XVI has made it clear in the short time he’s been wearing the Funniest Hat of All, that he has no intention of following in his predecessor’s fancy footsteps by trying to foster understanding between people of different faiths. Benny has declared that it’s his way or the highway, and here’s a quarter for the toll booth. Which I’m sure is the best way to fill empty churches and inspire a new generation of pedophiles to become priests. Everyone I know says, “I’m tired of thinking for myself. My life would be so much better if only I had one more authoritarian asshole to tell me what to do.” And the kids, they love 14th century didactic dialogues.

Once again, this demonstrates the whole problem of two groups who both wish it still were the 14th century trying to talk. There’s no way to do so without making a lot of people angry, setting Burger kings all across Southern Europe on fire and generally fuelling religious violence. And, predictably, to prove the Pope right, the Mujahadin Army is threatening violent reprisal against Vatican City.

So, it’s the usual mess. Bloody, violent Islamic fundamentalists getting irate because a bloody minded Catholic fundamentalist called them bloody and violent. And the root of all of this lies in a disagreement as to just which book, supposedly penned by an invisible man who lives in the sky, should be used as the basis for world domination.

Back in my D&D days we solved all disagreements with a swift roll of the ten sided dice. To this day, there’s still no better way of solving petty squabbles about the peculiar rules governing intricate fantasy worlds.


Sam Harris gets a few good punches in, too:

While the pope succeeded in enraging millions of Muslims, the main purpose of his speech was to chastise scientists and secularists for being, well, too reasonable. It seems that nonbelievers still (perversely) demand too much empirical evidence and logical support for their worldview.  Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all. It turns out that this is a job for… (wait for it) … Christianity. Why is the world susceptible to rational understanding? Because God made it that way. While the pope is not much of a conjurer, many intelligent and well-intentioned people imagined they actually glimpsed a rabbit in this old hat. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, praised the pope’s “deep and complicated” address for its “clarity and openness.”

As PZ Myers points out, Pope Rat comes off as more dottering and opaque than crystal clear:

This was an appeal to treat Christian superstition as primary, ruling over the false religion of Islam and the even more detestable godlessness of much of Western culture. It was played for the Catholic conservatives, no one else.