Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Of Popes and Turkeys

Pope Benedict's Apolistic Journey to Turkey is something of note. I have been listening to Anders podcast on Byzantine rulers, I have also been reading works that fill in the gaps on western history including Stark's The Victory of Reason.

In school, I bought into the line that civilization flourished in Rome. Then Christians took over causing the Dark Ages. Reading past modern progressive propaganda, I've realized that history is more complex than the one dimensional view held by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

The first realization was that what we call Ancient Greece was not simply the modern country of Greece. Much of the history of Greece actually happened in Turkey. After the conquest of Alexandria (Aristotle's student), Alexandria Egypt became the intellectual capital of the world.

As Rome deteriorated its imperial corruption, the better part of the Roman Empire moved to Constantanople (modern Istanbul). So, during the Middle Ages, Constantanople was the place to be. What modern scholars call the Byzantine Empire was the remnants of the Roman empire. The people in the empire called themselves Roman, they spoke and learned Greek. The ongoing wars with Persia, the fall of Alexandria and eventual fall of Constantanople made the area disappear from our history books.

From the days of the days of the ancient Greeks to the fall of Constantanople, Turkey was a primary center of world culture.

The modern drama of a secular Turkey joining the European Union is extremely important in world history. Can a country that is 98.9% Islam tolerate the existence of other faiths and join the free world, or will it turn Jihadist and reject the west?

As I understand, one of the primary messages of Pope Benedict is that you cannot separate faith from reason, or reason from faith. I am sympathetic to this argument as I see a great danger in efforts to elevate science to a religion. Conversely, removing reason from faith leads to dictatorial cults like the FLDS. In my opinion, Pope Benedict's visit to Istanbul brings up many of the issues that must be addressed if we are to break from the ongoing religious wars between west and east and develop a world where ideas compete on their merits and not by the sword.

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