Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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Why We Shouldn’t Stop Rev. Jones’ Quran Burning Party

09.08.10

Rising from the still-smoldering debate over the legitimacy of the Park51 community center is the Rev. Terry Jones’ proposed “Burn A Quran Day,” scheduled for this Saturday, September 11th.  Just like the name implies, from six to nine in the evening, people will gather to set copies of the Islamic holy text ablaze to show their opposition to the faith held by the radicals who attacked New York City nine years ago.

Jones’ plans have been met with considerable opposition of their own by just about everyone in the State Department and even from the military — General Petraeus warned that this very act could harm our efforts to control Afghanistan, even endangering our troops.

This hasn’t deterred Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center church.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church declaring “Islam is of the Devil.” But his Quran-burning scheme attracted wider attention… The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Religious freedom sure is an odd thing, isn’t it?  People want it when it suits them, but want ways around it when it doesn’t.  It’s part of the freedom’s brilliance and why it’s so vital to our Constitution.  Just like the Muslims have the right to build their mosque near Ground Zero, Jones and his own crew radicals have the right to burn some books.  Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion, however you want to slice it: they have the right to do this.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it an effective, worthwhile use of time.  Combating extremism with more extremism isn’t going to work.  Not to get all squishy, but you can’t beat hate with more hate.  You can’t beat ignorance with more ignorance.  You beat brutality with civility.  You overcome oppression with freedom.  You trump prejudice with acceptance.

What people don’t want to realize is that conflating all Muslims into radical terrorists is the same fallacy as Muslims condemning all Americans as infidels.  So, by blaming the entire religion of Islam for the terror attacks, Rev. Jones and his followers are responding to the mentality with which they disagree by adopting that exact mentality themselves. There’s very little in the way of logic going on here — it’s simply an “I’m right, they’re wrong” line of thinking.  No rationality required.

Another paradox is that these 50-odd people and their inflammatory plans for Saturday really could’ve just come and gone without much notice from anyone, except the media exploded this thing to the point where all levels of government voiced their opinions, it’s all over the news, all over the blogosphere.  It’s everywhere.  We could’ve all ignored Jones and his followers’ sad, unfortunate response to tragedy and they would’ve faded away without much of a whimper — no television stories for people abroad to see and misinterpret.

Although, that’s never going to happen — nor should it necessarily.  It is a news story, after all.  But does it require the amount of national exposure that it’s receiving?

People wonder why others hate Americans and then when snippets of news of Americans burning Qurans flood the airwaves, it’s not hard to see why they might be too fond of us.  Because just like how we only catch glimpses and read certain stories about what kind of people they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Palestine, you have to figure that people in those countries only catch glimpses and read certain stories about us, too.  And who knows what is being passed off to them as representative of Americans as a whole. Odds are that if there’s video footage of a bunch of Floridians burning Qurans gleefully, claiming that the entire faith is of the devil (remind you much of Ahmadinejad calling America the “Great Satan” at all?), that will make it over to those Islamic nations with which we’re firmly entrenched overseas.

While we can’t stop the Dove World Outreach Center from their Quran-burning plans, we can do our part to embrace our diversity and focus on remaining rational in the face of these highly emotional times.  Let them burn their books.  Because when has that ever changed people’s minds?  The beliefs aren’t in the books; they’re in people’s minds and hearts. They won’t accomplish anything good with their pointless, crude event, so why give them a soapbox any bigger than they already have?  Our efforts are best served doing something else, something productive, something positive.

If we continue to do more and more things that promote tolerance, acceptance, rationality, and – ultimately – positivity, we can outshine any blaze by the loud, radical outliers.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele — All Rights Reserved.  And no, it has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.  And we need more of that in the world, right now especially.

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Religion: Anachronistic Perhaps, Yet Still Valuable

08.25.10

Andrew Sullivan:

If you see the world as something to be understood, you will seek to understand it through many voices, idioms and perspectives. To dismiss all religion as mere anachronistic bunk is a closure of the mind, not an opening.

While I agree, I don’t know that I agree in the same way that Sullivan means it.  I haven’t used that precise term – anachronistic – to describe religion before, but it’s relatively close to my feelings toward it.  I don’t know that my issue with it is that it’s old-fashioned so much as that the rigid structures of religion are itself closed-minded, ignoring new evidence and thousands of years of human development, ingenuity, and discovery in favor of some ancient texts.

At least, that’s the case for the Abrahamic religions.  One could argue that since their texts are so old, that they must be relevant and worthy if people are still worshiping them after all these centuries of new ideas and new religions have come to pass.

The same can’t be said for new faiths like Mormonism or Scientology.  Those followers intrigue me the most, especially the latter.  To think that people subscribe to a set of beliefs that include some pretty out-there sci-fi babble in an age where we have so much scientific evidence showing that there’s no way the universe is trillions of trillions of trillions of years old stuns me.

So where do I agree with Sullivan?

It’s precisely because those people stun and baffle me that these religions are worthy of studying and investigating.  We’re all so different yet we all have so many traits in common.  Why am I not religious while others are extremely devout?  Why do certain cultures tend to embrace such different faiths?  Or is it their faiths that determine different cultures? These religions, and the human race’s constant desire to believe, offers all kinds of information that we can dissect and study from sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives in order to learn how our minds and cultures evolve and function.

Just about everything involves religion.  Just glance at the news and try not to incorporate Islam, Judaism, and Christianity t0 understand what’s going on.  From the two wars we’re fighting in the Middle East to the already-existing mosque near Ground Zero in NYC to award speeches, it’s impossible to separate humans from religion.

And even for those like myself who follows no religious institution, my doing so is notable because of my lack of religious desire.  I admit that I frequently dismiss the concept of religion as anachronistic bunk, as Sullivan says, but I don’t dismiss its impact or its intellectual worth when it comes to understanding our world.   In that sense, I don’t see my beliefs as being a closure of the mind at all because one doesn’t need to give credence to religious faith in order to investigate our world so much as accept religion’s existence and how it affects people, places, and things.

I just keep it in its place along with other myths, legends, and fables that speak volumes about ourselves as self-conscious beings and human nature than they do anything related to defining our existence or explaining the afterlife.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Booyabazooka

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Not All Atheists Against Mother Theresa Stamp

02.01.10

An atheist organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation has come out against the US Postal Service’s new stamp commemorating the late Mother Teresa, because she is a religious figure.  Naturally, an uproar on the blogosphere has ensued and rightly so.  This type of inflammatory event is precisely what many bloggers – on both sides of the political divide – live for.

I have no real interest in treading the same territory that has already been well covered.  My issue is with the leap that many bloggers have taken in suggesting that one atheist group speaks for all atheists everywhere.

The main news article breaking the story that I found was from Fox News, which bore the title: “Atheist Group Blasts Postal Service for Mother Teresa Stamp.”  From what I’ve read about the event, this is true.  Unfortunately, many in the blogosphere have neglected to include the word “group,” suggesting that all atheists are in fact against this new, postage-related development:

Patrick Madrid: “Atheists ‘go postal’ over new Mother Teresa stamp”

Right Pundits: “Mother Teresa Stamps Spark Controversy with Atheists”

Belief.net: “Sticky problem: atheists slam Mother Teresa stamp”

World Net Daily: “Atheists attack Mother Teresa”

To be fair, these are all very right-leaning websites that cater to their American Conservative audience, which is comprised of a strong Christian base, so it shouldn’t be surprising then that they have lumped one atheist group into the entire population of all atheists.  But, it doesn’t make it right.  And not all conservative blogs make this error, either:  The Christian Post reports on this with the headline of “Anti-Religion Group Chides USPS Over Mother Teresa Stamp.”  (But the author wastes no time marginalizing the atheists and agnostics as “freethinkers,” complete with snarky quotes around the word, in the first line of the story.)

A simple omission of the word “group” with regard to this story changes the tone and substance drastically.  It also removes much of the author’s credibility by revealing a very obvious bias off the bat.  And given how ridiculous the opposition to a Mother Teresa stamp is to just about everyone not part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it wouldn’t take much to show that they don’t have much credibility on these postage matters (given that they didn’t oppose MLK, Jr.’s stamp, apparently, because he was involved in civil rights and just-so-happened to be a minister).  But when it’s reduced to an attack on all atheists as a group, the retort fails as well.

When your opposition already makes themselves look ridiculous and marginalized, there’s no point in bringing yourself down with them.

(H/T Hot Air)

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Ft. Hood Tragedy Polarizes Nation Immediately

11.10.09

Major Nidal Hasan sure got both sides spewing their rhetoric.

One side uses the tragedy as an excuse to condemn all of Islam and its followers and to justify the wars in the Middle East.  The other side condemns those who condemn Islam.

As the picture becomes clearer about Hasan and his extremist views, those who were quick to blame Islam may have more of a leg to stand on than when the news first hit about the shootings at Ft. Hood.  It doesn’t by any means justify jumping to conclusions based on the Major’s Middle Eastern name and apparent religious affiliation, but it’s beginning to seem like what looked like a duck and quacked like a duck is, in fact, a duck.

Perhaps.

One of the downsides of our world of instant news is that no one has the time to gather facts before presenting them in a way that fashions some sort of picture.  There is no illumination; just a few spare details and the rest is left to speculation until more facts help reveal the true image.  Unfortunately, by the time the true story comes to light, the blogosphere has already reached their conclusions and they’re just waiting for new details simply to enhance their preconceived notions.

It’s not just the blogosphere that overreacts, either.  Sen. Joe Lieberman sure has done enough of his own lately, seeking a Congressional investigation to consider the Ft. Hood shootings a terrorist act.  No formal charges have even been made yet and Lieberman wants Hasan declared a terrorist.

Sen. Lieberman:

It’s — first, this was a terrible tragedy. Second, it’s too early — it’s premature to reach conclusions about what motivated Hasan. But it’s clear that he was, one, under personal stress and, two, if the reports that we’re receiving of various statements he made, acts he took, are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism.

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And therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act and, in fact, it was the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11.

He admits that it’s too early to say, but then goes on anyway with his multitude of ifs leading to his statement meant merely to rile people up.  This is something to be expected from blowhard pundits like Limbaugh, Wallace, and Beck, but not a U.S. Senator.  Nothing good comes of this except for more marginalization, more hate, and more misguided anger.  Thank you, Mr. Lieberman.  Job well done.

Perhaps everyone should just hold off while evidence is gathered, witnesses interviewed, and even an interrogation of the accused before he’s condemned before a trial.  Remember, not only is Hasan an American citizen, he’s a Major in the Army.  It seems that the senator has jumped to conclusions, based either on the information currently available, or perhaps, more likely, due to the fact that Maj. Hasan is a Muslim and there’s a sense of blame associated with Muslims simply due to their chosen faith.  As if his being a Muslim automatically places him alongside Bin Laden and Mohammad Atta without so much as even receiving his Miranda rights.

More and more facts will rise to the surface as the days go by and the investigation continues.  Authorities say that they still don’t have a motive for the massacre, but regardless, there is no excuse.  It was an unconscionable act of violence that took 13 lives and changed countless more.  Perhaps we’ll find that this was part of some bigger plot.  Or maybe we’ll find that it was just a man who snapped and came undone in the worst way.

But like Sen. Lieberman said, it’s too early to tell.

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Explaining The Gay Marriage Thing

05.29.09

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Jacob Dickerman wants to know if someone out there can explain the gay marriage thing.

I’ll take a stab at it with one word:

RELIGION.

I suppose it gets a little deeper than that.  It also stems from a moral superiority complex that is derived from the blind following of certain judgemental religious doctrines.  It’s simply the current, hot button issue du jour that tries to rally the troops amongst the (mainly) evangelical Christians and Mormons.

What I really don’t get, though, is how even if they were able to successfully amend the federal constitution to ban same-sex marriages, what do they get out of it?  Would it really strengthen the religious community?  And, honestly, wouldn’t it empower them more to allow same-sex civil marriage so that way they could further separate themselves from the immoral secular society?

Ancient religious texts (and even then, only a certain few passages within those texts) combined with irrational fear of the unknown-slash-different and plain-old ignorance provides us with the anti-gay marriage movement.

I just still don’t get what they get out of it if they win.

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It’s Not About Religion!

04.16.09

New York may be the next state in line to allow same-sex marriage.  Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) introduced a bill to follow in the footsteps of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

Of course, he’s got himself a lot of opposition.  Not surprisingly, this opposition consists of the religious community, particularly from Sen. Ruben Diaz of NY, who just so happens to also be an Evangelical pastor. (I’m sure he’s very fair in all of his decisions and doesn’t let his religious duties impair his governmental ones.)

“I think it’s a laugh in the face of the new archbishop,” Diaz said Thursday before the start of his meeting. “The Jews just finished their holy week. The Catholics just received the new archbishop. The evangelical Christians just celebrated Good Friday and resurrection. He comes out to do this at this time? It’s a challenge the governor is sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge.”

Please take note that the religious people are the ones who are making this about religion, not the secular population.  The governor of a state introducing a bill that would affect civil law has nothing to do with religious doctrine.  There is no infringement upon anyone’s personal beliefs here.  This is not about religion!  We don’t have a law for every single one of Moses’ commandments, or for all of Jewish kosher laws, or Muslim sharia law.  This is because we are not a nation ruled by religion.

Anyone who thinks that homosexuality is a sin and that it should be shunned and ignored and “cured,” deeply offends MY beliefs.  But those people are entitled to those beliefs.  And just as I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t need to agree with gay marriage.  It also means that they’ll just have to deal with it and realize that their belief system isn’t the rule of our secular, free country.

Eventually.

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Yeah, Iowa!!!

04.03.09

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I love Iowa.  I loved it when I visited it last month on tour.  And I loved it when I was there last year for my friend’s wedding.

And I now I love it because it has – unanimously – become the third state in the union to legalize gay marriage.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.  And they were unanimous in their decision.  That’s just amazing.  The Heartland of America truly shows its namesake by voting against discrimination.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone in Iowa agrees with this decision.  I would even guess that a majority will not like this ruling.  But, not many people were stoked about losing their slaves or letting women vote.  Yet it was still the right thing to do.

We do not live in a majority-rule society.  This is a common misconception because we’re constantly calling our government a democracy, which it is not exactly.  America is a constitution-based federal republic.  Thankfully, much like the federal constitution, its state counterparts protect the same liberties – including that of freedom from discrimination.  Even if the majority of the voters morally disagree with homosexuality and marriage equality, the constitution prevents that kind of intolerance from becoming law.  Until lately, unfortunately, some peoples’ moral arrogance has kept an entire population of Americans living in shame and treated like second-class citizens.  With this ruling in Iowa, we are now 6% of the way toward having all states denouncing bigotry and instead embracing equality.

It’s a huge step forward.  But we still have a long way to go.