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Decoding the Pope's words about the dangers of secularism in society

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 06:54 pm
I just read the BBC's report on Pope Benedict XVI's address at an open-air mass in Glasgow. (see link below) And (as non-religious person & long ago lapsed Catholic) I'm having real difficulty comprehending his "message". Seriously. Perhaps his words are are just standard material to the faithful & I shouldn't concern myself, but I really wonder about exactly what he's actually saying. I have never understood secularism to be a particularly dangerous path for any society to take.
What exactly does he mean these (quoted) statements?:


What does he mean by "aggressive forms of secularism" ? Some examples would help.

Quote:
In his homily, the Pope warned against people who seek "to exclude religious belief from public discourse".
Earlier, he urged the UK to resist "more aggressive forms of secularism".



How might the exclusion of religion be a "threat to equality & liberty"? Or to put it another way, how might embracing religion enhance liberty and equality in any society, given that there are a variety of different religions in British & other societies?

Quote:
In his sermon in Glasgow, the Pope said that those individuals who wished to exclude religion even went as far as painting it "as a threat to equality and liberty".
But he insisted: "Religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect."


Could someone please explain what is "meant by a "dictatorship of relativism" in society.:

Quote:
The pontiff also said that a "dictatorship of relativism" threatened "to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and his ultimate good".
He added: "Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility."


Aggressive secularism, again.:
Quote:
... He added: "Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11333448

 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 06:57 pm
@msolga,
Over to you. I'll be very interested any any enlightening responses.

Thanks.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:00 pm
That's code for Dawkins.

Ratzinger and Dawkins are interesting, long history.

I can see where Dawkins comes from, but he isn't me. Ratzinger, a theological thicket in place. Just ask Hans Kung..
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:02 pm
@ossobuco,
Yeah, I figured it might have a bit to Dawkins, osso. Wink
But I was wondering about the content of his address, too.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:05 pm
@msolga,
Please, I'm not going there (no offense).


Oh, wait, are you interested in New Jersey?
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:08 pm
@ossobuco,
Quote:
Ratzinger and Dawkins are interesting, long history.


Yes?
An ongoing war of words?
I wasn't aware of that. But then, I haven't been following these developments & this "debate" nearly nearly as closely as I might have done.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:08 pm
@ossobuco,
That's OK, osso.
No problem at all. Smile
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:10 pm
@msolga,
No, I don't have links, but I consider them primo arguers at their envelopes.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:11 pm
Surely the roman catholic church has, over centuries, blunted questions.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:11 pm
@ossobuco,
OK. No worries. This might be of interest only to me, anyway. Smile
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:13 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
But I was wondering about the content of his address, too.

Judging by the BBC summary of the pope's speech, it was deliberately devoid of content. All his statements are vague generalities. Vaguely assertive generalities about the relevance of the Church, vaguely alarmist generalities about the Church's fastest-growing competition. You're a very silly Australian for assuming there's content to mine the speech for.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:16 pm
I don't read up on Dawkins. I just figure he is the evil knievel.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:16 pm
@ossobuco,
Quote:
Surely the roman catholic church has, over centuries, blunted questions.


Yes, but what I'm interested in is these particular words about secularism, coming from the the leader of the Catholic church in the 21st century. I understand about preaching to the faithful about upholding their faith & their Catholic values. It's the statements about secularism I'm struggling with ...
ossobuco
 
  0  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:17 pm
@msolga,
Oh, well, I don't read his statements.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:18 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
Judging by the BBC summary of the pope's speech, it was deliberately devoid of content. All his statements are vague generalities. Vaguely assertive generalities about the relevance of the Church, vaguely alarmist generalities about the Church's fastest-growing competition. You're a very silly Australian for assuming there's content to mine the speech for.


And you're a silly German-American for responding to this thread, then! Smile

So I'm just a silly sausage for assuming those statements mean anything at all?
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:22 pm
But I still wouldn't mind knowing what a "dictatorship of relativism" in society might actually mean. Seriously.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:28 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
So I'm just a silly sausage for assuming those statements mean anything at all?

It's a common mistake. And in Ratzinger's case, it's a justifiable one because he isn't usually inclined to blather, whatever his other failings may be. If he is staying as vague and content-depleted as he is, it's probably because anything more specific would be so easy to attack.

Which aggressive secularists wish to exclude the church from public discourse? (Even Richard Dawkins doesn't---he only thinks the church's arguments should no longer get a free ride just because it's a church making them.) And, exactly how is religion supposed to guaranty "authentic liberty"? What specific contribution to liberty can we expect from the particular religion that brought us the Holy Inquisition? As soon as the Pope talks about concrete things like these, he can't win anymore. That's why he's staying so vague. That, at least, is my take on the speech.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:30 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
But I still wouldn't mind knowing what a "dictatorship of relativism" in society might actually mean. Seriously.

I think it refers to a social climate in which every ideology, religious or secular, is forced to prove the merits of its case, or else be presumed equally flawed.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:31 pm
Here's how The Guardian (UK) reported the Pope's words.
(There are 621 reader responses to this article so far! Surprised )


Quote:

Pope Benedict XVI goes to war with 'atheist extremism'


Pope uses visit to argue Nazi desire to eradicate God led to the Holocaust and Britain should respect its Christian foundations
http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2010/9/16/1284663843267/Pope-Benedict-XVI-006.jpg

Pope Benedict XVI Pope Benedict XVI held mass in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, at the end of the first day of his visit to Britain. Photograph: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images


Benedict XVI used the first papal state visit to Britain today to launch a blistering attack on "atheist extremism" and "aggressive secularism", and to rue the damage that "the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life" had done in the last century.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church concluded a speech, made before the Queen and assembled dignitaries at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, with the argument that the Nazi desire to eradicate God had led to the Holocaust and a plea for 21st-century Britain to respect its Christian foundations.


"Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society," he said. "In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world."

The pontiff's speech set the wide-ranging tone for his four-day visit: despite attacking atheism, he paid tribute to the UK's historic achievements and offered "a hand of friendship" to all its people.

After touring the streets of the Scottish capital, which were lined with 125,000 people, and having lunch with Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, the pope travelled to Glasgow where, beneath a cloudless blue sky, he celebrated mass in front of a congregation of around 60,000 in Bellahouston Park.

The pope's comments on secularism and atheism came in marked contrast to the conciliatory and contrite words he offered victims of Catholic sexual abuse.

In a 15-minute long briefing to journalists aboard the papal plane this morning, Benedict described paedophilia as an "illness" whose sufferers had lost their free will.

Using his strongest language to date on his church's record on clerical sex abuse, he deplored its failure to act swiftly and decisively in the past.

"It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly mission was possible," he said, adding that the church was "at a moment of penitence, humility and renewed sincerity".

He said the first priority was to help the victims to recover from the trauma they had undergone "and rediscover too their faith in the message of Christ".

Tomorrow he will be in London to meet religious leaders, among them the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, before travelling by popemobile to parliament to address an 1,800-strong audience in Westminster Hall including Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown .

Benedict's opening address today followed the publication of an interview in which a senior Vatican adviser described Britain as a "secular, pluralistic" land that had fallen prey to "a new, aggressive atheism".

Cardinal Walter Kasper – the Vatican's leading expert on relations with the Church of England – was immediately dropped from the papal visit following the remarks on the eve of the visit, which included his observation that arriving at Heathrow airport was sometimes like landing "in a third world country".

The Vatican, which said the decision not to bring Kasper had been taken "for health reasons", was swift to issue a statement on Wednesday, explaining that the cardinal "had no negative intention" and that he "recognised the great values of British culture".

Benedict was more explicit in his condemnation of militant atheism, noting that Britain had fought the atheistic evil embodied by Adolf Hitler.

"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live," he said.

His pronouncements brought immediate condemnation from humanists and secularists, and some other religious groups. Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, said the pope had hardly waited to get off the plane before attacking secularism.

He added: "The British people have embraced a secular identity of their own free will, perhaps as a reaction to the ultra-conservatism of this recent papacy and the extremism that has been manifested by some forms of Islam. The secular identity of the British people is not something to criticise, but to celebrate."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/16/pope-benedict-xvi-atheist-extremism
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 07:40 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
I think it refers to a social climate in which every ideology, religious or secular, is forced to prove the merits of its case, or else be presumed equally flawed.


Ah. Thanks, again, Thomas.
And not a bad thing at all, I'd say, either!
As "dictatorships" go! Wink

 

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