I shamelessly copied this post from my friend, Dr. Platypus. I couldn't have said it any better! There are several things I cannot support that this Pope says, but this is not one of those times. I just read two articles--one was an apology from Pope Benedict, and one related that a nun was killed, possibly in retaliation. I am sad that the Vatican thought an apology was necessary. Point made?
"To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death." Manuel II Paleologus
Benedict quoted this statement in the context of the contention that faith and reason go together. It is actually quite similar to this quotation from a prominent Baptist leader from the early 20th century:
"Christ's religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck." George W. Truett
You notice there is no reference to forced conversion at the point of a sword (or a rifle) in Rev. Truett's words. There is a very simple reason for that: even a hundred years ago it was inconceivable that Christians--even the most ardent church-state entanglers--would advocate such a violation of one's human rights.
Today, however, mayhem ensues because six or seven hundred years ago a Christian ruler whose city was under siege from Muslim conquerors indicated that he thought the idea of forced conversions repugnant.
Well, I agree with Manuel II, George W. Truett, and the Pope that violence and coercion in the name of God is indeed repugnant, atrocious, ugly, and blasphemous. I am glad we have largely settled that issue in the church, and continue to pray for the tiny minority of Christian extremists who haven't quite figured it out yet.
If that upsets people who, I am forced to conclude, worship a god vastly different from my own, I have no choice but to confess, Ich bin ein Katholischer.
Disclaimer: No, I am not unaware that Christian kings and emperors have occasionally threatened (or used) force in order to convert unbelievers to Christ. Charlemagne's dealings with the Saxons come immediately to mind. No doubt there were similar lapses of Christian charity during the Crusades (which, it must be noted, occurred several centuries after Muslim conquerors conquered and began oppressing the non-Muslim inhabitants of formerly Christian-dominant places like Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and North Africa, in a period of growing mistreatment of Christian pilgrims attempting to visit their holy sites). Still, I am not aware of any such atrocities occurring in the last couple hundred years. We must be making at least a little progress!
Committing such acts clearly violates both the teaching and example of Jesus, as contemporary Christians concede with unanimity.
P.S. from Singing Owl
A certain politician with presidential aspirations (IMO) should stop making reference to this "great religion" in order to score political correctness points. And yes, I know not all Muslims are extremists. Benedict did not say they were.