The Pope vs. Islam
Despite my track record of Vatican bashing (do a search if you want examples), I'm leaning towards the Pope in this little spat. I must add my voice to the chorus of folk (including Journal of Applied Misanthropology and Andrew Sullivan) who say those people who are protesting this seem awfully thin-skinned. If an imam said something equivalent criticising Christianity or Judaism, I highly doubt Christians and Jews somewhere would start throwing fire bombs. The violence our country engages in is sometimes sick, wrong, and misguided, but at least in the area of religious provocation we seem to have a welcome nonchalance. I find it difficult to believe that people even care so much what the Pope says. As far as I'm concerned the Pope is a joke. But people take him seriously. And the response to his disparaging quote kinda proved he had a point, didn't it?
This whole episode reminds me of the Danish cartoon fracas and the Salman Rushdie fatwa. It's really incomprehensible to me what pisses people off so much. Aren't there more important things to worry about? I guess I don't have a right to tell people what to be mad about, but it does seem puzzling.
A while back, War Nerd wrote this armchair psychoanalysis of the Iraqi insurgency:
[emphasis added] So is this kind of thinking at work in these "cultural" issues that inflame the Muslim world, much to the condescending puzzlement of the West (myself included)? Granted, War Nerd is an insensitive misanthropic bigot (and a fictional personality), but how right is he here? How prevalent is this kind of thinking? Are we just being selectively fed these images and stories of "the rioting offended Muslim", or do they really reflect an underlying reality?
Massacres are much easier to take when you've got a huge birthrate to replace your losses, and shame trumps dying to young males. That's why it's always been ridiculously easy to get cannon fodder: young guys like the idea of killing and dying, but go ballistic if somebody humiliates them.[...]
So think of Iraq as a high-school kid. Naturally, to him, sexual humiliation like Abu Ghraib is way, way worse than a piddling little massacre. I kind of admire that about them, the way they care more about some infidel flushing a Koran than about whole families blasted.
Update: Slacktivist wrote about this event a few days ago:
1. If you feel your religious tradition has been slandered, falsely accused of promoting violence and the "command to spread by the sword the faith," then it's probably best not to respond to such remarks violently. Bombing churches tends not to be an effective way of convincing others that your religion has not become corrupted by the adoption of violent coercion as a means of spreading/defending the faith. It may, in fact, be counterproductive -- reinforcing and providing evidence for the negative criticisms of your faith.
Also: If you're upset with something said by the Roman Catholic pontiff, then it makes no sense to take out this anger with violence against a 1,425-year-old Greek Orthodox church. That makes about as much sense as invading Iraq in retaliation for Sept. 11.