The pope of the Catholic Church says that "genuine religion rejects violence and totalitarianism", which makes me wonder if he is unaware of the history of his own religion. But I might have been all for the pope telling such a lie if I thought it would actually help reduce religion-based violence, and for all I know that may indeed be his intention (the other possibility being that the pope only believes what he wants to believe regardless of truth). Unfortunately, I don't think it will do any good, and in fact be harmful, because it could enable religious people to think they are advocating peace when they are most certainly not. It's the same kind of thinking that allows a religious organization to claim that they hold life sacred while trying to eliminate both birth control and abortion or condemn the use of condoms that prevent the spread of HIV.
Like many other people, I'm not happy about the invitation of Rick Warren to give the invocation at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. Never mind the more general unease of giving a religious oath for government office, which I think is wrong but will grudgingly accept for the sake of tradition, but Rick Warren has been very active in opposing civil rights for homosexuals. It's one thing to oppose the granting of rights to a minority group, which is bad enough, but it's a disgrace to take rights away. In fact, it's a disgrace that a majority of Californian voters decided to take away rights by approving Proposition 8. Anyways, it's troubling that Barack Obama would give someone like Rick Warren a central role in his inauguration.
I'm going to take a wait and see attitude to the invitation before I ultimately determine how to think about the whole affair, though. I'm really hoping that Obama is doing this to throw a huge symbolic bone to the religious right so that he wouldn't have to offer substantive bones, in which case of course he wouldn't be able to explain his real reasons for inviting Rick Warren. However, this is really just wishful thinking, so I still consider efforts to have Rick Warren uninvited to be worthy causes, even if I wouldn't personally participate.
There's a bit of cognitive dissonance hearing that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, one of the most religiously oppressive countries in the world, both officially and unofficially, made a speech about the need for religious tolerance. But condemning him as a hypocrite might be far too premature. If he really wants to spread religious tolerance within Saudi Arabia, he'll have enough trouble dealing with domestic elements that will strongly resist such efforts. He doesn't need the rest of the world to pile on him, too.
On the other hand, if it's just a thinly veiled attempt to decry criticisms of Islam, Saudi Arabia would deserve all the scorn it will get. I just hope that this is not the case. I hope the speech is part of his baby steps as he tries to make his country freer. Unfortunately, I do not know about the king well enough to have an opinion one way or the other.
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