Monday, June 11, 2007

What does it for you?...

...is the title of a little post at WWwtW, and it would be nice if some of you could find time to participate.

Also, Paul Cella has an article at the American Spectator, and Lydia keeps an eye on the phenomenon of creeping dhimmitude.

23 comments:

Christopher said...

[From Right Reason] I was talking about foot basins, in Michigan, and in Minneapolis, the "big issue" has been cabbies who object to transporting alcohol. I think that even such relatively trivial demands need to be confronted and nipped in the bud.

Just out of curiousity, what is the difference between this and say, the Catholic air force officer who refused on principle to work with a female in the close confines of a nuclear missile silo?

Or the principled Catholic pharmacist who refuses to sell contraceptives?

Or the orthodox Jew who protests because his employer, say, recognizes Easter and Christmas, but refuses to let him off for Yom Kippur, Sukkot or Pesach? (The state of New York, for instance, formally recognizes Christian holidays -- but if you're a practicing Jew, you're forced have to use your vacation hours).

The interaction of the secular realm to religious is often messy; so I was wondering how would you distinguishe the experiences of say, the above, from their Muslim counterparts?

Lydia McGrew said...

Christopher, you could try the fact that alcohol isn't actually evil. Also, guide dogs for the blind, which the Muslim cabbies also refuse to transport, aren't really going to make them and their cabs dirty in the sight of God.

Guess what: You can't get away from deciding whether people's objections to particular actions are based on true premises or not.

(Somebody should tell our friend Zippy Catholic that I said that. I'm starting to sound like him.)

William Luse said...

Furthermore, I don't know what religious basis the officer would have for objecting to working with the woman. There's no Catholic doctrine forbidding it in general.

The Catholic pharmacist is doing the right thing by refusing to facilitate an evil.

I think Jews ought to have a couple of their most important holidays (or holy days) recognized. And I think New York and all the states ought to recognize Christian holidays.

In sum, I would distinguish Jews and Christians from their Muslim counterparts on the basis that the religious heritage of the former two is the result of a genuine revelation from God, and is the actual foundation for all of Western culture, while the Muslim heritage is based on the testimony of a false prophet who came to bury Christ, not to praise him. The intersection of the secular and the religious might still be messy, but less so if we make some effort to exclude the alien and the false.

Not only is alcohol not actually evil, it is postively good, especially if you keep your beer European and your ale British.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the reply and the courtesy of sharing your opinion, William. Honest question that has come up in correspondence on this issue and I appreciate the answer.

As far as the military officer objecting to working with a woman, it had to do with the policy of working in close quarters, the officer being married and believing it might constitute an occasion of sin; there was an article in First Things a while back on the story, sex and the married missileer (February 2000).

There is actually a lot of similarities between Jews and Muslim customs insofar as dietary laws are considered.

As far as the Muslim cabbie's refusal to pick up passengers carrying alcohol, while the cabbies are principled my opinion is that they should probably seek another line of work given that miniscule level of conflict. I would note that not all Muslims agree that the cabbies are right and some groups have spoken out against them as a public nuisance and wrongfully representing Islamic practice.

Lydia McGrew said...

I want to point out that the similarity between Muslim and Jewish approaches here, especially as it influences the public realm, is somewhat superficial. For one thing, halal meat (Muslim kosher) must be slaughtered while a prayer is said to Allah. As far as I know, Jewish kosher meat can be slaughtered without a special prayer, which means that non-Jews can do kosher slaughter. You can correct me if I'm wrong. This means that to the extent that our society goes out of its way to provide halal meat (e.g., to prisoners) it is purchasing meat dedicated to Allah, specifically. Furthermore, Jews never make the kinds of insane fusses about _contact_ with pork products or even mention of pigs or pork that Muslims are doing more and more. Children in a European country (Norway or Sweden, can't recall which) trashed a school classroom because the teacher was _talking_ about pigs in the context of teaching about life on a farm! In several European countries teachers are being instructed by their superiors to cut out fairy tales that refer to pigs, either entirely or replacing the pigs in the story with other animals. Checkout clerks in Minneapolis refuse to scan shrink-wrapped pepperoni pizza. Never, never have I heard of anything remotely like that from Jews, for whom pork is also forbidden.

Speaking for myself, I think the Catholic missile officer's concern was legitimate. I don't think it needed to be connected specifically to some one Catholic teaching. It was an understandable ethical objection. The missile silo was tiny and they were sleeping there with very little privacy overnight, etc. But the whole thing could be avoided if women were not being inappropriately treated as if they were men in military contexts.

In any event, such things must be evaluated in terms of what sorts of objections really are reasonable, what propositions are true, etc. The Muslim cabbies _certainly_ should not take on that job. (I notice you haven't mentioned the guide dogs back to me, but I assume you would agree for that reason as well.) But they aren't going to. Instead, they are demanding more and more accommodations, to their taking time off for prayers, to their refusal to transport the guide dogs, and so forth. Apparently being a cabbie is quite the preferred job for immigrants, Muslim immigrants among them. And all over the world they are pushing in this way to have the culture changed, because they constitute a surprising percentage of the cabbies at several major airports.

William Luse said...

The Catholic officer's concern is definitely legitimate, but my point was that he cannot, on the basis of a religious commandment, refuse to do the job he was assigned. He cannot make the claim that by working with the woman he is sinning, whereas those cabbies and the checkout clerks are behaving as if, in transporting alcohol and touching packaged pork, they are in fact sinning (and they may believe this); while I think what they're really doing is trying to impose their cultural superstitions by suppressing vice in others. As far as I'm concerned you can ship them off to whatever country agrees with their fanaticism. If there are Muslims who claim that these folks are "wrongfully representing Islamic practice," that's wonderful, but it's not a debate we should waste our time with. I have no interest in knowing which adherent to a false religion is the true follower.

such things must be evaluated in terms of what sorts of objections really are reasonable

Yes, it should be noted how reasonable (to the point of pusillanimity) Christians and Jews have always been in subordinating their religious convictions to other concerns. Maybe it's time for that to change.

Christopher said...

As far as similarities between Jews and Muslims -- I didn't mean just in reference to dietary habits. (You're right in that non-Jews can assist in kosher slaughter; it is the premises that must be ritually cleansed and blessed). Practicing Jews and Muslims encounter similar obstacles to live out those demands in the interaction of the secular world and especially outside of non-Jewish or Muslim populated areas in the U.S.

Orthodox Jews and Muslims take the observance of (what we may think as minute) commands of their religious law seriously -- to a greater degree than most Christians (for whom such laws are practically non-existent; a good thing too as I like my beer and barbeque as much as any other ;-) . . . putting myself in their shoes I can understand the challenges they face.

I do not think the observance or practice of sharia need entail the kind of behavior Lydia has described (based on my own experience and interactions, I don't take it to be representative of Muslims as a whole). There are also some state-accomodations I can understand, as when Jews and Muslims lobby for a halal/kosher labeling statute (to prevent wrongful and deceptive misrepresentation / consumer fraud); or for employers to provide equal accomodation to Jews and Muslims with regards to the observance of holidays.

I would draw the line at the imposition of Halakah or Sharia on non-Jews, non-Muslims or even non-religious) as in the refusal of a Muslim to serve pork at a non-hallal supermarket or restaurant.

There's a distinction between, say, a hospital in Australia removing ham from its menu entirely (so as not to offend the Muslim patient population) and a hospital which chooses to serve individually-prepared halal or kashrut meals out of respect.

Lydia McGrew said...

I still think you are making way too much of a parallel between Muslims and Jews. Jews simply _never_ do these kinds of things. Whether they are "typical" or not for Muslims, they're darned well happening repeatedly in country after country, all over the West. That's too typical for me.

When was the last time you heard of a Jew, convicted of a serious crime, sueing the government because he while in prison couldn't get very much kosher meat, even though they served him kosher vegetarian meals? This has now happened in Australia with a _convicted pedophile_ Muslim.

I think what you don't realize, Christopher, is the extent to which these Muslim demands are really a form of muscle-flexing, an attempt to see how much they can force within the host culture. I really do not see Jews engaging in that kind of power move for trying to make American culture bend to their will.

I also entirely concur with Bill that Jews are part of the cultural basis of the U.S. in a way that Muslims are not. There is no need to treat all religions as on a par.

William Luse said...

Ditto.

Christopher said...

I still think you are making way too much of a parallel between Muslims and Jews. Jews simply _never_ do these kinds of things. Whether they are "typical" or not for Muslims, they're darned well happening repeatedly in country after country, all over the West. That's too typical for me.

I noted the similarities in Jewish and Islamic experience. I'd also consider Judaism is much more advanced, not to mention comfortably ensconced within the United States to a greater degree than Muslims (who are still quite foreign by comparison; on the other hand, there are still parts of America where a kosher Jew is looked upon as something of an oddity).

Islam is very much in an identity crisis; unfortunately, the dominant form of Islam at this time (Salafism) and in Islamic schools in the middle east is precisely that which fosters and encourages the kind of militancy and fundamentalism you describe -- this is not to say that there are resources within the Islamic tradition to counter such; there are 'traditional' Muslims who oppose such behavior, but realistically speaking it is an uphill battle.

When was the last time you heard of a Jew, convicted of a serious crime, sueing the government because he while in prison couldn't get very much kosher meat, even though they served him kosher vegetarian meals? This has now happened in Australia with a _convicted pedophile_ Muslim.

Jewish inmate sues over meals, religious rights April 19, 2004 (Richmond, VA); Colorado Agrees to Restore Jewish Prisoner's Kosher Diet in Response to ACLU Lawsuit (10/13/05); Jewish prisoners trying to keep kosher 4/9/06 . . . I could probably google up a few more. I would think that prisoner's assertion of their right to follow religious dietary restrictions is a fairly common demand, be it Muslim or Jewish. (I'm not sure why you saw fit to bring up the crime -- I would also imagine there are probably a few Jewish pedophiles out there as well, not to mention, well, you know).

I think what you don't realize, Christopher, is the extent to which these Muslim demands are really a form of muscle-flexing, an attempt to see how much they can force within the host culture. I really do not see Jews engaging in that kind of power move for trying to make American culture bend to their will.

I wouldn't be so quick to presume my ignorance -- I'm well acquainted with Jihadwatch and Dhimmiwatch (Robert Spencer); Bat Ye'or and Bruce Bawer (While Europe Slept). On the other hand, I'm also interested in (and becoming acquainted with) traditional Muslim responses to Islamic radicalism -- and tend not to regard every demand made by Muslims as a sign of "muscle-flexing" with the goal of restoring sharia and/or the caliphate.

I also entirely concur with Bill that Jews are part of the cultural basis of the U.S. in a way that Muslims are not. There is no need to treat all religions as on a par.

I agree with Bill's observation as well, but I also believe this need not entail a lack of tolerance. If we can extend to Jews consideration and respect for their prayer times and holiday observance, I don't see why the same can't be afforded Muslims (within reason).

Lydia McGrew said...

Lots of things to respond to, here, and I may have a guest at the door in a minute.

First, why did I bring up the crime? Because, to speak bluntly, if you go around raping children, you should be thankful to get any food at all and not to be pushing up daisies. I note that this guy wasn't just demanding _some_ halal food, he was demanding halal _meat_ and suing so that he _not_ have to eat as a vegetarian. Well, people can live as vegetarians, especially if given dietary supplments like B12 and iron, and that may be part of the price he has to pay for commission of this crime. Where is it written that prison has to be a nice place where you don't have to be a vegetarian?

You are quite right that Jewish suits from prison are more common than I had thought. I think perhaps they manifest some chutzpah as well and should be slapped down, too. But I would note that these people are just demanding some kosher diet, not specifically meat. The woman who seemed the most presumptuous to me was the one who demanded the seder meal plus other food at the same time. She wanted a special plate and a sprig of something-or-other. Give me a break. Like God was going to punish her for not having horseradish sauce at Passover!

I still stick to my claim, however, in which you seem to concur, that Jews are far, far less pushy than Muslims on these sorts of issues.

Now, as to accommodation, let me speak very directly. No, I do not think we should accommodate Muslim prayers. This for many reasons. First, they are very disruptive (five times a day with complicated ablutions). They should get over it and assimilate and not demand to drop everything five times a day to run out and wash every part of their body and pray. I've already spoken to this at some length in the thread on the original post Bill linked.

A second point here is that I believe Allah to be a false god. George Bush is wrong. We don't all worship the same god. This is relevant not only to accommodation of prayers but to holidays as well. I do not see any reason why some alien religion should get its holidays formally recognized in the United States simply because people practicing that religion form a substantial minority of our population. And frankly, if we'd been on the ball with immigration, they _wouldn't_ constitute as large a minority as they do. Shall we also have stamps dedicated to Kali, who eats her young, if we get enough Hindus in the U.S.? Bah! I think we should make it clear that as a country we do not recognize the god Allah. We do not worship or honor that non-existent foreign god. And therefore we have no obligation whatsoever to recognize or honor holidays--holy days--in his honor.

Tolerance, did you say? Yes, tolerance. That means we don't forbid people to worship Allah, or sticks, or stones, if they should wish to do so. We don't put them in prison for it, per se. We don't fine them for it. And so forth. You should think of how Christians are treated in Muslim countries if you want to talk about intolerance. We don't sentence people to death for apostasy from Christianity to Islam. We don't even register them from birth with a particular religion and give special courts power over their future marriage and power to throw them in jail for apostasizing from that religion, as they do in Malaysia. Muslims have _oodles_ of tolerance in the U.S., and would have, even without Eid stamps, foot basins in public restrooms, and all the rest of the nonsense, which in my opinion are not "tolerance" but rather are offensive toadying to the worship of a false god.

William Luse said...

I'll have to go with Lydia. If our government is going to extend any kind of helping hand to religion, then it has an obligation to truth - an obligation it has largely abandoned, I admit. But that doesn't make it right, nor obligate me to support its indifference.

Christopher said...

First, why did I bring up the crime? Because, to speak bluntly, if you go around raping children, you should be thankful to get any food at all and not to be pushing up daisies.

Well, at this point we're off on another tangent (prisoner's rights and respect for religious preferences within the confines of incarceration). Is the justice system obligated to respect your religious affiliation or is it a right you forfeit upon conviction and incarceration, along with other rights? -- I'm inclined to agree. Doesn't much matter if your a Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim, if you're a pedophile I find it hard to muster up the sympathy.

Now, as to accommodation, let me speak very directly. No, I do not think we should accommodate Muslim prayers. This for many reasons. First, they are very disruptive (five times a day with complicated ablutions). They should get over it and assimilate and not demand to drop everything five times a day to run out and wash every part of their body and pray.

So your rationale for not accommodating Muslim prayers would be because the former is too disruptive and would constitute an inconvenience? -- Sorry, I just don't see objection based on inconvenience alone as having much of an argument.

It may be just as much of an inconvenience to other employers to have Jews take off on their holidays (Pesach, Sukkot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, et al.); likewise, Orthodox-observant Jews pray three times daily -- morning, afternoon and evening; the rythmic movement of Jewish prayer (davvening) may also pose a distraction. Why privilege the accomodation of Jews over Muslims, then? -- Short of arguing for the supression of outward religious devotion in public life (lest it constitute a nuisance, God forbid), there may have to be some compromises. In an area with a large Muslim population, I think compromises or public allowances are to some extent understandable.

To cite a comparable example, most Jews in America are heavily secularized and non-practicing but in the case of Tenafly, New Jersey something of a ruckus erupted when 15 families insisted on the public establishment of eruvs --

. . . rubber strips to be attached to existing telephone poles and power lines. By symbolically extending the boundaries of a home to the entire enclosure, the eruv allows Orthodox Jews to engage in some activities normally forbidden on the Sabbath.

Superstition? Slavish adherence to old-fashioned tradition? Depending on one's POV. But it does seem to me perfectly understandable in the context of a growing Orthodox community and their interaction with the public. By the same token if a community college has a large Muslim student population, accomodations to support that population in addressing a known problem isn't necessarily a sign of Dhimmitude. (I do see the point about taxpayer-funding).

A second point here is that I believe Allah to be a false god. George Bush is wrong. We don't all worship the same god. This is relevant not only to accommodation of prayers but to holidays as well.

Well, I expect we'll have to agree to disagree on this. I would note that on this question President Bush appears to be on the side of John Paul II and our present Pope, who in his address to Muslims in Cologne appealed to what he described as "the Magna Carta of the dialogue with Islam", the passage in Nostra Aetate:

"The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God.... Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people" (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 3).

Now, Muslims deny the Trinity on the same grounds as Jews, as a perceived violation of monotheism and God's unity and find the notion that God "took flesh" and became mortal a conceptual challenge.

While Muslims (as also the Jews) do not share the fullness of revelation of God in Christ and their conception of God is deficient to our own. On the other hand, I don't think this would discount the recognition of the Pope, which is much like what St. Paul made of the 'unknown God' worshipped by the Greeks.

(Here's Fr. Brian W. Harrison on this topic as well).

I do not see any reason why some alien religion should get its holidays formally recognized in the United States simply because people practicing that religion form a substantial minority of our population.

Well, seeing as how some states have elected to 'formally recognize' a variety of alien religious holidays in our public schools, from Buddhist to Hindu to Greek Orthodox Christian (which follows a different calendar) I suppose it's only fair and in keeping with a desire to preserver religious freedom.

America was born of Catholics, a few Jews, and a majority of Protestant denominations in various states of mutual disagreement with each other. (Muslims were existent at the time of our country's founding; howbeit most were slaves as well). It has managed to tolerate (without giving preference to) pseudo-Christian sects arising in the course of its history such as Christian Scientists, Second-Day Adventist, Mormons, etc.; beyond that it has tolerated non-Christian religions. So I'm still not sure why on the basis of the founding principles of this nation one could not accord to Muslims the same basic tolerance that would be given accord to Jews and Christians.

On that note: The Founding Fathers and Islam: Library Papers Show Early Tolerance for Muslim Faith by James M. Huston (Library of Congress).

You should think of how Christians are treated in Muslim countries if you want to talk about intolerance. We don't sentence people to death for apostasy from Christianity to Islam. . . .

Well, here you and I are on the same page. (I just devoted a post on my blog to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East); Pope Benedict has spoken of this on a number of occasions as the principle of reciprocity, namely that Muslims should accord to Christians in Islamic nations the same religious liberties that they enjoy (or should enjoy) in Western or predominantly Christian nations.

There was a FoxNews special on tonight, airing a documentary banned by PBS: Muslims Against Jihad. It addresses the concerns which you have expressed, of Islamic radicalism which plague Europe and some parts of the US -- But at the same time it shows Muslims who adamantly oppose this threat as well and the cancer that infests their tradition. There are an estimated 3,700 adherents to an "alien" religion currently in service to our country, fighting the war. These Muslims are as American as you or I.

It is in our best interest, I think, to make common cause with the latter, and that requires some discernment (for example, the many bloggers who went hysterical at the sight of Nancy Pelosi wearing a headscarf -- her decision to go is another matter).

Christopher said...

Pardon the typos in the above.

Lydia McGrew said...

Christopher,

I think the question of truth and falsehood is highly relevant at every level. I think that there is only the most superficial resemblance between Islam and Judaism. You can't say that just because both are monotheistic religions, don't accept the trinity, and because Muslims _claim_ to be worshiping the God of Abraham, that it follows that they are basically parallel religions or stand in the same relation to Christianity. Not by a very long shot. We Christians have the Jewish scriptures as part of our own scriptures. We hold that God really did reveal himself to Abraham and to Moses. We hold that Jesus was the incarnation of the God of the Jews. Do we similarly believe that the Koran was revealed? No. If some Christians do, they are wrong. Do we believe that God similarly spoke to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel? No.

I think it's insulting to Judaism, which is by Christian doctrine from time immemorial a true revelation of God, to analogize it to Islam, which is based on a _later_, thousands of years later, false claim of revelation to a false prophet. Indeed, God has always been very harsh about false prophets. Unpleasant things happened to them in the Old Testament. You don't get to be declared a prophet of the true God just by _saying_ that you are expressing a revelation of His.

As for inconvenience, let me ask you: If some group of people here in the U.S. wanted to stop and sacrifice a white cock three times a day to the spirits, would employers be obligated to give them breaks from work and a convenient place to sacrifice, and to wash up after them? Yes, inconvenience is important, especially when we're talking about a religion that the employer is not obligated to hold to have been revealed, and when we're talking about a religion that _wasn't_ revealed! If the Muslims said they had to go away for three hours in the middle of the work day, would that be an accommodation we were obligated to make? I'm astonished that you would be so sarcastic and dismissive about inconvenience, as if making our entire life come to a screeching halt several times a day in this country is an irrelevant consideration! Somali meat packers are virtually shutting down the lines in one part of the U.S. when they all go out simultaneously to pray at sundown. Do we just get sarcastic and say, "Oh, heaven forbid it should be inconvenient for them to go worship Allah!" and expect the employer meekly to accommodate this? Why the dickens should he?

Again, you seem to think that we should just recognize holidays for every religion in the whole world if all these religions have adherents here in the U.S. So we should have stamps for animist holidays? What about my Kali example? Maybe we should have a picture of her coming up out of the river and eating her baby, if we get enough people around here who worship her. If we have lots of Wiccans, should we have stamps for Wiccan holidays? Basically, anything goes?

No. Absolutely not. You can envisage a polytheistic United States in which every false god man has ever worshiped is tacitly recognized and honored in our national calendar. I won't. And I don't see why any Christian should.

And don't call that tolerance. We may be "on the same page" in believing that Muslims should be even minimally tolerant of Christians in their countries, but we are apparently not on the same page as to the meaning of the word. You apparently include in it official recognition by the government and special accommodation. I believe Muslims are already tolerated in all the senses that matter in the U.S. and in a few that go too far. And if Christians received anything like the degree of toleration in Muslim countries _without special stamps, government recognition for their holidays, and employer accommodation_ that Muslims get in the U.S., they'd have reason to be thanking God in tears.

Christopher said...

You can't say that just because both are monotheistic religions, don't accept the trinity, and because Muslims _claim_ to be worshiping the God of Abraham, that it follows that they are basically parallel religions or stand in the same relation to Christianity.

Lydia, if I said or thought that, I'd be incorrect. But of course I didn't say that. I pointed out that Muslims and Jews share similar theological objections to the Trinity as an perceived offense against the unity of God; I wasn't suggesting a fundamental agreement or identity between the two traditions. They also share a commonality in terms of their attempts to follow a religiously-proscribed diet in public life (depending on their level of observance).

The Islamic-Christian relationship is inherently asymmetrical whereas the Church's relationship with Jews is, to quote JPII, our "elder sisters and brothers in the faith," bound by the Covenant.

This is indicative in Nostrae Aetate which acknowledges what I had spelled out earlier regarding the Islamic worship and recognition of the Creator, but goes into considerably greater detail on the Jewish-Christian relationship. (Tangential recommendation: Msgr. Osterreicher's The New Encounter Between Christians and Jews is a good "behind-the-scenes" history of the internal debate on this document).

Look, I don't blame you for presuming my ignorance and jumping to erroneous conclusions about making a false theological equiasion, but I've been studying Jewish-Christian and Islamic-Christian dialogue for the past decade. I also live in close proximity to Jews and Muslims who are in some cases very conversant with each other and myself about their experience. I figure after this long I have an awareness of the fundamental differences between the three traditions.

You can envisage a polytheistic United States in which every false god man has ever worshiped is tacitly recognized and honored in our national calendar. I won't. And I don't see why any Christian should.

I envision a nation which at least provides a modicum of religious freedom. Which is what the Pope demands from Muslim nations; which is what Americans accord to our own citizens, at least in the understanding of our founding fathers and applied to Christian, Jew and "Mohametan" to use their original terminology. Now, how that ideal manifests itself day to day and in various situations remains to be seen (Eugene Volokh had a good column on this topic in the National Review today. Perhaps you can address it?)

In the case of carrying alcohol, for example (which incidentally is not forbidden in the Qu'Ran), there may be legitimate reasons for rejecting the measure -- Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (CounterTerrorism Blog) offers a good (and rather more measured) critique of the Minneapolis cab driver issue (and I happen to agree).

Shall we also have stamps dedicated to Kali, who eats her young, if we get enough Hindus in the U.S.? Bah! Shall we also have stamps dedicated to Kali, who eats her young, if we get enough Hindus in the U.S.? Bah! I think we should make it clear that as a country we do not recognize the god Allah. We do not worship or honor that non-existent foreign god.

On the foreign god" bit, I noticed you didn't make the least attempt to engage the Pope's remarks on the subject. On the Kali bit, now look who's being sarcastic? -- Perhaps it's time to bow out at this point.

William Luse said...

Lydia feels no compulsion to address the Pope's remarks because, being non-Catholic, she doesn't consider herself in obedience to him. So I will. I've read Nostrae Aetate before and take it to be pretty much what it is on its face - a call to reconciliation, which Muslim societies around the world have studiously ignored. I frankly don't know what the Pope believed about the Muslim God; it might be he was just being polite, or giving them the benefit of the doubt. A call to reconciliation will not get far if you start off by telling the other party that he's got God all wrong. But I'm sure you do not seriously believe, on the basis of that declaration, that I am doctrinally obliged, by 'divine and Catholic faith', to hold that Muslims worship the one true God. (I only wonder because, when Lydia said their God was false, you agreed to disagree.) If Mohammed experienced a revelation, we can be sure it was not from God, for that revelation was already complete in Christ.

I envision a nation which at least provides a modicum of religious freedom.

We already have that nation.

I must say I'm surprised at your alacrity in wishing to cater to Muslim sensibilities. I get a sense (without actually accusing you of it, since it's just a feeling) of something approaching religious indifferentism, as though our government ought not merely tolerate the presence of other religions, but in no way privilege Christianity above them. That's the way the country's been going, but surely you can sympathize with my inability to accept it. I'd be interested in knowing what your father thinks of all this.

Lydia McGrew said...

I won't go on at length about this, but I think Volokh is approaching this all wrong. His idea seems to be that either we have laws allowing religious exemptions from laws or requiring employers to make religious accommodations, and in that case we just have to shut up and leave it to the courts, or else we have to repeal such laws en toto. But that's ridiculous. Surely we can have opinions, even strong and argued opinions, as to which religious exemptions should be allowed and which shouldn't. The judge has to make such a determination; why can't the people have and argue opinions on the matter as well? I strongly resent Volokh's using phrases like "have done the same thing" referring to Christians' asking for *some religious exemption or another*. Now, that's silly, too. Christians are not asking to appear in court with their faces covered and so forth. Christians _aren't_ "doing the same thing." He even goes so far as to make an analogy to Christian doctors who don't want to perform abortions! What kind of moral equivalence is that? _Anything_, however outrageous, can be _claimed_ to be required by one's religion. We could get Baal worshipers asking for religious exemptions to laws against murder so they can perform human sacrifice. But the mere fact that something is being demanded as a religious exemption obviously doesn't make it equal to all other such requests. I don't throw around the word "legal positivist," and I've been accused of being one myself, but Volokh argues like a legal positivist--"If you don't like Muslims' demanding X, quarrel with the law."

Christopher said...

Lydia feels no compulsion to address the Pope's remarks because, being non-Catholic, she doesn't consider herself in obedience to him.

You don't have to be Catholic to engage the merits of a particular teaching of the Pope or a Council. Against her assertion that Muslims worshipped a "false God" I offered a counter assertion (qualified, of course, and in no way presupposing the validity of Muhammad's revelation) that Muslims might in fact worship (and pray to) the Creator.

I frankly don't know what the Pope believed about the Muslim God; it might be he was just being polite, or giving them the benefit of the doubt. A call to reconciliation will not get far if you start off by telling the other party that he's got God all wrong.

I'm not so sure -- I have difficulty with the notion that when Benedict expresses the convictions he did in his address to the Muslim community he is merely "being polite" -- I'd like to think he was as sincere in his statements to them as he was in his statements to any other community.

(At this point I'd say it'd probably be worth looking into other writings of the Pope on this topic).

But I'm sure you do not seriously believe, on the basis of that declaration, that I am doctrinally obliged, by 'divine and Catholic faith', to hold that Muslims worship the one true God. (I only wonder because, when Lydia said their God was false, you agreed to disagree.) If Mohammed experienced a revelation, we can be sure it was not from God, for that revelation was already complete in Christ.

When I said we'd agree to disagree I meant with respect to that particular proposition (that Muslims might worship the Creator). I'm not sure of the doctrinal status of Nostrae Aetate (I confess my ignorance of the binding nature of the conciliar documents). The question of "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" is heavily debated among Catholics (from Fr. Brian Harrison Fr. Louis Bouyer to Louis Massignon to Hillaire Belloc; despite their answering in the negative or the affirmative, all are mutually agreed (as I am, as I presume we are) that Islam while, as it were, possessing glimpses of the truth (in its affirmation of God's unity, for instance) is nevertheless deficient and lacking the truth of God's full revelation in Christ.

So no -- I don't expect binding obedience to the proposition offered in Nostrae Aetate.

(Just a note -- I am in agreement with Fr. Brian Harrison on this matter:

Vatican Council II and Pope John Paul II have taught rightly that in spite of their disbelief in the Incarnation and the Trinity, Muslims cannot justly be classified as idolaters. Allah—nothing other than the Arabic word for God—cannot be equated with Baal, Zeus, Ashtaroth, Krishna, Aphrodite, and the other local, finite, false deities of pagan polytheists. The nature of Islam is more that of a heresy—an offshoot of Christianity and Judaism that retains the basic monotheistic concept of the one true Creator God. In short, although Muslim worship, which includes a flat denial of Christ’s divinity, is not in itself fitting, God-pleasing, or salvific in character, the object of that defective worship—that is, the Being toward whom it is directed—is nevertheless the true God, imperfectly understood, as distinct from a disguised demon or a nonexistent figure of myth or legend.

Moving on . . .

I must say I'm surprised at your alacrity in wishing to cater to Muslim sensibilities. I get a sense (without actually accusing you of it, since it's just a feeling) of something approaching religious indifferentism, as though our government ought not merely tolerate the presence of other religions, but in no way privilege Christianity above them. That's the way the country's been going, but surely you can sympathize with my inability to accept it.

I don't think I'm "catering to" Islam. If people attempt to ban Christmas Carols or the public display of Mangers or even outlaw the serving of ham at a hospital (because it offended Muslim sensibilities), damn right I'm opposed to it.

But as I said above, I'm honestly wary of this tendency to denounce practically every request from the Muslim community with outright suspicion as some kind of plot to dhimmitize the American people. Distinctions must be made.

I'd be interested in knowing what your father thinks of all this.

Likewise.

[Lydia:] _Anything_, however outrageous, can be _claimed_ to be required by one's religion. We could get Baal worshipers asking for religious exemptions to laws against murder so they can perform human sacrifice. But the mere fact that something is being demanded as a religious exemption obviously doesn't make it equal to all other such requests.

It is certainly true that "anything, however outrageous, can be claimed as a religious exemption" (and they may be asserted in all sincerity by members of any and every faith), to which the obvious question: how should the courts then decide?

Am I the only one here wary of investing in our secular courts or any other government office the authority to judge the merits of a case on religious truth?

I think our founding fathers were wise in wanting to avoid this. They had to grapple with the fact of our pluralistic nation, the competing claims to truth among religious adherents (even among Christians, with Catholics in the minority and often persecuted), and to find a way to maintain civic peace. I think they were also cognisant of the problems which arise from a marriage of church and state.

So, as Volokh points out and where I thought his article is helpful, there are other criteria for sifting through the claims: (1) each claim should be considered largely on its own, and (2) future claims should be rejected if they impose “undue hardship” on employers (Civil Rights Act) or undermine “compelling government interests” (RFRA). -- in light of which, certain claims made by Muslims, such as the wish to retain a veil when getting a driver's license taken; or disruption of the lines by Somalian slaughterhouse workers, might very well be turned down. "Religious exemptions" is a thorny issue; cases are not handled or decided well by the courts (see "Taking Religious Freedom Seriously" by Michael McConnell First Things May 1990) -- but I don't think one can reject out of hand Muslim requests for religious exemption because they happen to be, well . . .Muslim.

[In case you were wondering, Lydia, taking into account the "undue hardship" criteria mentioned above and thinking through further, I've reconsidered my criticism that one might oppose a religious practice because it constitutes an inconvenience. I'm in agreement with you over the refusal to transport alcohol and guard dogs; I'm even sympathetic to your criticism with respect to those employed in a meat-packing plant shutting down the lines for prayer -- I'm less convinced that the establishment of foot basins in public bathrooms constitutes an inconvenience to the general public].

I strongly suspect the case made by Baal worshippers for child sacrifice would get laughed out of court as it rightly should.

Christopher said...

Again some typos and grammatical nightmares in the above -- as might come from writing this at 3:18am. The unfortunate consequence of a double espresso and exhaustion from a long day's work. So beg pardon, I hope I was able to adequately convey my points and I'm off to bed.

Christopher said...

Will, Lydia -- I honestly don't know what I could say further, I think I've conveyed my thoughts as you have yours.

On a parting note: The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty makes for some interesting reading on this issue. (interview with the founder).

William Luse said...

Am I the only one here wary of investing in our secular courts or any other government office the authority to judge the merits of a case on religious truth?

No. I don't trust any of them. They won't change unless the hearts of the people change.

I think they were also cognisant of the problems which arise from a marriage of church and state.

We're not arguing for a marriage of church and state, but that each give due deference to the other in its proper sphere, and right now the church ain't getting much respect. (and that the only sort of 'church' to which our government owes deference on faith and morals is a Christian one, and no other.)

The one point on which you must surrender is this support of foot basins in public restrooms. Restrooms are already disgusting enough. By law, no man should be able to add to it by taking his shoes off in public. (Women, having prettier feet, are another matter.)

Christopher said...

(Women, having prettier feet, are another matter.)

LOL.