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Taking ideas from a new, interesting book Senza Radici, ("Without Roots")  - I borrow from it liberally in the beginning - and from a 2002 article by Ron Rosenbaum, "The Second Holocaust", I am again reminded of the impossibility and futility of "dialogue" with the Arabs/Moslems.
What has caused Europe's catalepsy? I believe it is Relativism - a most powerful narcotic. We're dealing with the idea that traditions, cultures, civilizations are all of equal merit and cannot be judged by a common meter. But if we concur with this idea - that one is worth the other and has the same rights of the other - then there is no truth anymore in any thesis, because each one is justified by itself. It follows that if a culture or civilization fights another, the other culture has no basis for reacting, because it must recognize that its opponent's arguments are just as good as its own.
Nondenominational thinkers have lately written (roughly translated) that "the lay conception recognizes equal dignity ethics to every vision of life and assigns to political deliberations legal decision making." If not a lapsus calami, it's a conceptual monstrosity and a logical contradiction. It would be like saying that the vision of life of a terrorist or of a fundamentalist has the same dignity and ethics of the vision of life as the one of a sincere liberal or democrat. And if the terrorist blows up a full bus of people, or a crowded discotheque, than what do we say of it? We say that its vision of life is dignified but, using the politically correct language of an accomplished relativist, that he is somewhat discourteous?
Consequently, on what is political deliberation based that approves of a law against terrorism, if not on the superior ethics of the culture of life and therefore not on the indignant ethics of those who denies it?
The linguistic handcuffs are mortal. The West does not love itself anymore. Europe seems emptied from the inside - paralyzed, degenerated, powerless. Both the pope and some secularists agree.
What's more, the European relativistic culture is incoherent, because while it is preaching that all cultures have the same dignity and validity, it ends up attributing to some more value than to others, often turning upside down the traditional hierarchies. How come if one vilifies the Koran he's wildly attacked and all hell breaks loose, Fatwas are issued left and right and islamikazis are dispatched to the four corners of the world, and, most liberal leftists are taciturn? But, if, instead, Israel and what is sacred to Jews is attacked, the freedom of opinion and of expression become the supreme good that must be observed.
"Is the West then better than Islam? It means that Islam has not yet produced civil societies, states, institutions and a culture of rights that are equal to the western ones and equally desirable for millions of persons. Is that not an obvious fact, is that a matter for decent people to even deliberate? Yet some do, and all possible hypocritical expressions and a multicultural nonsense jargon spring out." -- Without Roots.
Can we argue with the relativists? Probably not, because all their concepts are self annulling, and if all is equal, what is there to talk about (to 'dialogue') in the first place? We must understand that equivocal term: dialogue.
In a proper sense, dialogue is possible when both interlocutors admit the possibility of being in error and being able to accept, at the end, the thesis of the other or a different thesis.
Dialogue is impossible between religions because religions - in particular those that are monotheistic, and specifically those that are "revealed" - are absolute systems, closed, mutually exclusive.
Any possible dialogue is on a cultural and a political level, where values are derived from the Jewish religion - such as the dignity of the person, equality, tolerance, respect, liberty, intuitive decency, religious values - that have become secular values as well.
It is said that since Moses brought down the Ten Commandments, nothing new and important was seen on the ethical-moral front. Is this also true for a dialogue between religious and secular?
The first question is: who are the secular?
At least in the West, they are surely not those who uphold values different from the religious ones. Do we know secular people who do not honour their father and their mother, that swear false testimony, who murder, who do not respect the others, just to again mention the Decalogue?
I do not know any. The (decent) secularists do not have values different from the believers, they only justify them in a different way. For the secular, values are ethical imperatives; for a believer they are divine commandments. But they are still and always the same, identical values. And therefore dialogue between secular and believers is possible.
But is it a possibility between Judaism and Catholic Europe? And with Islam?
"In fact, it seems that the memory of the Holocaust is precisely what ignites the darker currents in the European soul. The memory of the Holocaust is precisely what explains the one-sided anti-Israel stance of the European press, the European politicians, European culture....at some deep level, there is a need to blame someone else for the shame of 'European civilization.' To blame the victim. To blame the Jews. And the more European nations can focus one-sidedly on the Israeli response to terror and not to the terror itself, the more they can portray the Jews as the real villains, as Nazis, the more salve to their collective conscience for their complicity in collective mass murder in the past." -- Ron Rosenbaum.
Every European society has been held together by the basic Christian world view. It is this world-view that helps people feel satisfied with their lot in life. Doctrines such as "resist not evil", "let slaves be obedient to their masters", "turn the other cheek", and the general view that life in This World is less important than one's prospect of the Afterlife, that suffering in this world generates bliss in the Afterlife, have all been important to stabilizing the medieval Christian life-style.
The modifications of the Christian world-view that came with the influence of the Enlightenment and modernity made Christianity dangerous not only to non-Christians but to fellow Christians as well. The antinomian (Scrap-the-Law) features of the Christian tradition were heightened into a shift of sacred moral authority away from the Universal Church and towards the sacredness of the authority of the various national governments.
Another branch of modernizing antinomian Christianity denied that moral rules had any ultimate reality, but were just inventions of the power-elite and justifications for maintaining this power. Many Jews went along with this gentile doctrine of moral relativism, particularly Freud and the "Vienna Circle" of "logical positivists", as well as Marx in his denigration of "bourgeois morality". Marx regarded marriage and property as transient human inventions, ignoring analogous behavior of territoriality, sexual pair-bonding, and social hierarchy that permeate the animal kingdom, including the higher primates.
World War I demonstrated catastrophically the inadequacy of modern Christian doctrine to maintain any kind of peaceful relationship between Christian countries. After this war, Christian ideologues such as Teilhard de Chardin and Dietrich Bonhoeffer contemplated publicly a radical revision of Christian doctrine. Close analysis of their ideas reveals that they were really contemplating a reversion to the Jewish theological world-view, where sin is not only to be actively resisted, but should be struggled against for the sake of THIS world, not for the sake of bliss in the world-to-come. Doubtless in the 1920's the inner councils of Christian religious authority came to this same conclusion, not so much to avoid destructive wars as to maintain the credibility of their moral authority and to maintain their position as the conscience of the societies they led.
But there was the problem: How could their religious doctrine be re-Judaized without the embarrassment of admitting that in the modern world the despised Jews have the answers after all? The way out of this dilemma would be to remove the Jewish presence, and then proceed to allow Christianity to evolve back to the spiritual essences proclaimed perennially by the Jewish religion. The Jews would no longer have a presence sufficient to point out that this reversion was taking place. And this reversion has indeed been taking place in European Christian doctrine since the 1960's.
It isn't guilt over the Holocaust that motivates the current resurgence of anti-Semitism. It is the Christian need to continue to look to Christian leadership and its asserted Christian moral superiority to stabilize Christian societies, no matter how judaized their Christianity becomes. Very few Jews in the world today realize this, and the result of this ignorance is to pave the way for their return to pariahdom. That they are surprised by the resurgence of anti-Semitism shows how uninformed they have been all along. There is a risk that the Jewish masses will again be victimized by their own religious leaders, who place their own status in the eyes of their gentile masters at a level higher than the well-being of the Jewish laity.
This view of shame and blame shifting is basic psychology and may be true in some cases, especially in those concerning the new anti-Semites as opposed to the traditional ones. Those would be not theologically or DNA-formed reprobates but the "thinking" new relativists, mostly of leftist and fake liberal extraction, so-called liberal in the self-proclaimed American sense; not true liberals, that is. These new 'liberals' search for an "educated" way to explain their inherent hate and faults and has more to do with envy than with a social or traditional outlook. But that is true only at a certain level, not that of the popular expressions of traditional anti-Semitism, which has no rational reasons but would only look for excuses to explain an illogical trait.
Secular Israelis despise the distorted version of Judaism that came to prevail in the medieval Diaspora, and are not even aware of the authentic Judaic doctrinal roots nourishing the morale of both Israel and America, and to a lesser degree Europe. Perhaps they will some day wake up and discover the authentic Jewish tradition and its importance in resisting medieval subjugation.
The Jewish tradition teaches that humans have socially-valuable natural inner goals, and true freedom is the condition in which one may pursue such goals in a socially-responsible manner. True freedom is thus not the same as the "freedom" to pursue only those goals permitted by those in power. This latter is slavery, and some contemporary religions endorse slavery in their holy scriptures. They use anti-Jewish propaganda to return the world to enslavement, in order that their authoritarian societies will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage to free societies.
This is typical of all Islamist regimes.
Secularism, or relativism, on the other hand, teaches that the idea of freedom as described here is an illusion created by a clever power-structure. This view cannot be logically disproved, and so the choice between freedom and slavery is a religious one, just as is the choice between Judaic thinking and the thinking fostered within the Moslem, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. traditions.
So, is dialogue possible?
Not until the church will clearly renounce its two millennia-old policies as wrong, openly recognize its Jewish moral basis that was modified by time and the Jewish ethical superiority. That will not happen soon, or maybe ever. What's more, many secular European thinkers who are not anti-Semitic fail to realize that any dialogues held on the cultural-political level are bound to fail ultimately, so long as both the religious fundamentalism, as expressed by those who pretend to be the only true one, the only salvation to be imposed on others, as in "rigid" Catholicism and most sects in Islam, and relativism, are not abolished completely.
1. (Senate President and theologician) Marcello Pera and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), Senza Radici. Europa, relativismo, cristianesimo, Islam, ("Without Roots"), Mondadori Publishers.
2. Ron Rosenbaum, "The second Holocaust - and European complicity," The San Franciso Chronicle, April 28, 2002 (www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/04/28/IN241627.DTL). See also Ron Rosenbaum, "Those Who Forget The Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism," Random House, May 2004, ISBN 081 2972031.
Shalom Noury is a columnist. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com
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