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The Pope's apology

The no doubt predictable outburst of fury about the Pope's comment on Islam is simply the latest manifestation of a phenomenon that has recently appeared among Christians, Sikhs, and even Buddhists as well as Muslims. There is an unquestioned assumption that religious belief is not to be publically questioned or challenged lest it give offence.

Until recently we thought we could assume that religion was in retreat throughout the modern world. Evidently this was an illusion. There is seemingly an inbuilt human need to believe passionately in what cannot be known. Indeed, the less it can be known, the more vehemently people advocate it. The very irrationality of religion seems to constitute its justification. As Tertullian said, "I believe because it is impossible."

The current enthusiasm for fundamentalist religion is the most obvious manifestation of a widespread hunger for the irrational, a symptom of the abandonment of the ideals of the Enlightenment. But if we give up our rationality there is no telling how far we may slip into collective madness.

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John Floyd, MD on :

Of the people publicly speaking with supposed authority about the Pope's address at the University, probably less than 1 in 10,000 have actually read the entire text. The Pope repeatedly calls for debate of religious views to be based on "logos", or "reason" rather than physical force. While using reason to debate an irrational concept is, I agree, not likely to be fruitful, at least it places the conflict on a higher plane than physical jihad.

I am not, nor ever could be, a Catholic, but this Pope intrigues me as an academic. I suspect he would be quite stimulating, or at least interesting in a personal encounter. It would be better if newscasters and others wanting to discuss the Pope's statment actually read what he said.

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