Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Kinds of Violence

Pope Benedict made a very interesting speech at Assisi. He talked about two sources of violence. The violence of religion and the violence of atheism. It is quite interesting. We can attack somebody because we believe they are evil. That is something all religions need to deal with. Of course all religions were represented at Assisi so it was a good time to bring that up. It is kind of against inter-religious etiquette to bring up topics like religious violence but there would have been little gained from a polite photo op. So he was quite bunt. We, as Christians, have engaged in violence and we need to deal with it. Violent Christianity has always been a perversion of the true Christian faith or at least an undeveloped version of the Christian faith. Still it has happened. To some extent it still happens. We need to do what we can to end it.

Of course many of the other religions represented there have a much worse track record for violence than Christianity. He especially focused on the 25 years since the last interfaith conference at Assisi.  A time when religious terrorism really began to become a problem in may parts of the world. The idea that people "consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others."

I think this is awesome. One of the myths about atheism is that not believing in God makes you better able to speak out against religious violence. It just isn't true. I can't imagine any atheist being as effective as the pope was here. He has credibility precisely because he is a man of faith and not a wishy-washy faith.

He also warned that as much as religion has an issue with violence atheism has a bigger one. He mentioned concentration camps but he also mentioned drug abuse. What he calls the "decline of man." We might not embrace full blown atheism at the state level but secularism is causing us to drift morally. It is the absence of God in a different way than the communists and the Nazis imposed it but it leads to violence none the less. The number of people killed by the US government in the war on terror has been skyrocketing. The body count from the war on drugs is huge. Then you have abortion. The numbers for that are insane. This is all violence that we accept as a society. We have lost our moral center. Even when we protest we don't know why. We occupy Wall Street and all we can do is babble about 1% and 99%. We can't articulate a moral principle.

I think the "decline of man" should be one of those phrases that forms a shorthand for what Catholics believe is wrong with the world. Like the "culture of death" was for John Paul II. The evil has grown to effect much more than our view of the sacredness of human life. It has effected politics big time. The financial sector is in serious trouble because of moral failings. It is all over the academic world especially in philosophy. The Decline of Man seems like an insightful phrase. He just needs to keep using it.

No comments:

Post a Comment