A lack of reason may lead to violence and an inability to respond to crises, but that didn’t stop the West from abandoning it. In a new article for the Catholic World Report, Acton’s Samuel Gregg reflects on Pope Benedict XVI and his 2006 address near Regensburg, Germany. “Ten years later,” Gregg laments, the West is “still in denial.”
On September 12, 2006 Benedict made global news with his lecture–his words enraged, gained support, and were analyzed countless times. The speech was concerned with the “deep problems of faith and reason that characterize the West and Christianity today,” particularly in relation to Islam. Despite causing great controversy, this speech is considered to be one of the most important papal addresses on world affairs. Benedict argued that our understanding of the divine ultimately creates the foundation for how we view and “can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable.” Gregg continues:
Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.
That irrationality is loose and ravaging much of the West—especially in those institutions which are supposed to be temples of reason, i.e., universities—is hard to deny. Take, for instance, those presently trying to turn Western educational institutions into one gigantic “safe space.” In this cocoon, those who maintain, for instance, that gender theory fails basic tests of logic, or that the welfare state has negative cultural effects, or that not all forms of inequality are in fact unjust (to name just some propositions which many today consider offensive), are regularly designated as “haters” or some word to which the suffix “phobe” is attached.