Friday, May 03, 2013

The Real Always Wins

Catholic World Report is asking the awkward questions about Islam that NewChurch doesn't want asked...

I speak about the violence expressed in the Qur'an and practiced in Muhammad's life in order to address the idea, widespread in the West, that the violence we see today is a deformation of Islam. We must honestly admit that there are two readings of the Qur'an and the sunna (Islamic traditions connected to Muhammad): one that opts for the verses that encourage tolerance toward other believers, and one that prefers the verses that encourage conflict.

Both readings are legitimate.
Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, SJ, the Egyptian scholar of Islam who teaches in Beirut and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, quoted by Carl Olsen in the National Catholic Reporter.

This little point is the essence, first, of the conflict between Islam and the West, and second of the kinship between Islam and what we call "liberalism," which, as it is playing out in western countries, is really just another term for creeping irrationalism.

Both systems of thought look upon the restrictions of concrete reality as "irrelevant". Both are essentially nominalistic, saying reality is what I decide it is, that something that is true for me is not necessarily true for you, a rejection of the notion of objective reality, which results, as we have seen in a "dictatorship of relativism".

This is what Benedict was getting at in Regensburg; that religion, whose purpose is to describe The Real, must first be rational.

What does that mean?

This is one of the problems with having the profession of journalist exclusively populated with people from Modernia and Newfanglia. They aren't educated so much as indoctrinated. Thus they don't know what words mean and use them differently - for different purposes - than someone interested in conveying reality. So when it came time to report on the infamous Regensburg Address none of them had the intellectual tools to understand it.

When Benedict said that religions have to reject irrationality, he was talking about what I like to call The Laws of Rational Thought, those principles by which we can ascertain truth from falsehood, reality from illusion.

These of course weren't "invented" by the Greeks, any more than Newton could be said to have invented gravity. You don't have to be either a Greek philosopher or a pope to understand them. I'm pretty sure that these Greeks simply wrote down and systematised something that the Babylonians and Egyptians knew all about. In fact, just looking at these ideas we know that, as C.S. Lewis liked to point out, everyone knows them. Indeed, Aristotle himself said that even a man who doesn't think about philosophy at all still acts in accordance with the Principles of it: "Why does he not just get up first thing and walk into a well or, if he finds one, over a cliff? In fact, he seems rather careful about cliffs and wells."

The formal Aristotelian formulations are still the most clear and useful.

First among the Laws of Rational Thought is the Logical Principle of Non-Contradiction. As Aristotle put it in the Metaphysics: "One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time."

Contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. One cannot both be in a room and not in a room at the same time.

This idea, and the ideas that spring from it, is the foundation of everything in our civilisation. It is our basic descriptor of the physical universe: essentially, that it is what it is, and its nature cannot be opposed to itself.

Islam's "god" contradicts itself; it says that a thing can both be and not be in the same respect and the same time. One day Allah says to be merciful and tolerant of Christians and Jews and the next day a good Muslim is to kill them, and as our Jesuit friend above said, "both are true interpretations" of the "will of Allah". Islam embraces the notion that its god, that it proposes as the creator of the universe, can encompass both itself and its contradiction. It proposes an essentially irrational god, and a universe that has no constant, universal laws. A god that changes its mind is no God.

"Liberalism" proposes something similar, that each person is a god who can decide according to his preferences what is and is not real and can change that reality to suit his immediate needs.

Christianity, however, as Judaism before it, posits first a rational God, one that never contradicts Himself. As it is put in Scripture,"For I am the Lord, I do not change. Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." and "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." God does not change, and proposes a moral law that is more absolute than the physical laws governing the material universe.

(This, and not even questions of the Trinity or the Incarnation, is the first reason, by the way, that I will never accept the trendy NewChurch notion that "we all worship the same God". It's rubbish because the "god" described by Islam is in many respects entirely the opposite of the God described by Christianity. In fact, it more closely resembles a demon.)

This is the kernel at the heart of Benedict's idea that true religion is first rational, and that irrationality is the enemy of everything good, of a peaceful and orderly civilisation. A thing that contradicts itself is an inherently anti-rational thing, and a society that embraces this irrationality will collapse in chaos. And this outcome is absolutely inescapable. Just as a bridge must be built according to accurate mathematics or it will come crashing down into the river, a society built on anything but accurate philosophy will tear itself apart.

The Real always wins.



Anonymous said...

Brilliant, as usual, Hilary.

Anonymous said...

Well come on. There was that nice Calormene who was REALLY worshipping Aslan all along! - Karen

Felix said...

I find it absurd for Catholic priests, US Presidents, and other non-Muslim to roundly say violence and terror aren't a legitimate part of Islam. Given that there are learned Muslims who say that it is.

But, then, as Hilary notes, all humanity has accepted the reality of gravity. It's a pity that our post-modernists don't stroll over cliffs to show that they are not confined by Sir Isaac's culturally conditioned laws.

Mrs. Pinkerton said...

I'm tired of hearing that Christians and Muslims worship "the same God". We don't. Theirs doesn't exist.