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Benedict the Blowhard is on a make nice trip to Turkey, trying to paper over his attack on Islam two months ago. Like many, I have no fondness for organized religions (or organized superstition to be more accurate) and their pompous leaders, but one would expect that the leader of almost 1 billion followers would own up to his bigotry instead of issuing a mealy-mouthed apology worthy of Michael Richards.

The Pope's "apology" threw more fuel on the fire by equivocating on Sept. 17: "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims."

Perhaps Benedict really is infallible. He's saying he's not at fault, all the brouhaha is due to the reaction of others. I wonder why the right-wing attack dogs never went after the Pope. Clearly, he's part of the culture of victimhood and can't accept responsibility for his own actions.

I raise this context to the content of Benedict's speech, which few people have actually read, including journalists reporting on the controversy. That's because if you do read the text, it is an unambiguous attack on Islam. But the corporate media can't admit this.

Typical is this CNN report: "sheikhs and scholars in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are even more dismissive of Benedict for what they felt was an insult to Islam in a speech he gave two months ago in his native Germany." CNN will only admit that "they felt" it was an insult.

It's like the asinine debate over whether or not to call the civil war in Iraq a civil war. (All these examples reveal how the corporate media functions as an expression of power relations rather than a source of critical information and analysis about power relations. It's an integral part of the cultural hegemony that Antonio Gramsci wrote about.)

As for Benedict's speech, not only was it an attack on Islam, it was a chauvinistic conflation of Christianity with Europe. (A number of excerpts from his speech below for reference.) Benedict is making a simple argument to essentially say that Islam is a rejection of Christianity.

He starts by quoting the statements of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus -- "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." Benedict then argues that "spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable."

No one can disagree with that, but Benedict's got chutzpah. You can only take his statement at face value by ignoring some 2,000 years of forced Christian conversions.

The issue of reason is the heart of Benedict's argument. He quotes from the first line of the Gospel of John "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Benedict focuses on the Greek concept for "The Word," which is Logos. Benedict says, "Logos means both reason and word." He adds that "John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God... In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist."

In other words, the Christian God IS reason and reason IS God. Earlier Benedict describes Muslim theology as follows: "But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."

Thus, the speech was an unambiguous attack on Islam. Benedict is saying "our "God and religion is one of reason, where we "lead someone to faith (through) the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats." In contrast, Islam spreads "faith through violence," which is "unreasonable." Benedict ends his speech by quoting again from Manuel II, "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God."

It doesn't take a genius or even a first-year philosophy student to realize that someone who was a leading Vatican theologian, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years before becoming Pope, was not making small talk when he gave his speech. He was saying that Islam, inherently, was in fundamental contradiction to THE GOD of Christianity.

As for his Euro-chauvinism, consider this passage: "This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."

Focus on this in particular: Christianity "took on its historically decisive character in Europe... (and) with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."

Any such "historically decisive character" would be the will of God, of course. Thus Europe is Christian country even though Christianity was a product of what we now call the Middle East.

This is why the Pope is a dope. He's trying to link the clash of civilizations to the clash of religions. Only time will tell if he's learned his lesson or if he takes up the banner of the New Crusades once again.

EXCERPTS FROM POPE BENEDICT XVI's SPEECH FROM SEPT. 12

the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

...

he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.

...

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.