The following is the second half of the letter quoted yesterday:
“I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, University of Virginia
( If you go on his website you will discover that Dr. Kauffman categorically denies ever writing this letter. It has, he says, made him famous for doing – nothing. He should be quietly pleased)
In her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlesinger (an American conservative radio talk show host), quoting Leviticus 18:22, announced that homosexuality cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura, attributed to Professor James M. Kauffman, Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, University of Virginia, offered over two days in this blog to make it less long a read:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstruation – Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the smell is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
To be continued tomorrow.
(This letter appeared in Daily Cos and is presented without need of comment)
There are many people, both in the US and the UK , who oppose immigration not on an economic, but on a cultural basis. They fear that their countries will become less cohesive.
This is a challenge to Epicureans, who believe in tolerance and live-and-let-live. Let me take a single example. In London, opposition to homosexuality is far more prevalent than in the rest of the country. This is despite London being traditionally seen as a haven for Britain’s gay community, and despite being traditionally one of the most tolerant and relaxed cities in the world.
This is owing to a growing immigrant community that is largely socially conservative in a country that is becoming more socially liberal. This culture conflict, which is religion-based, is likely to cause serious problems in the future. The taxpayer has to contribute towards “anything-goes” religious schools. For instance, there is at least one Jewish fundamentalist school in North London where the boys (only) arrive at 7 a.m and go home at about 8p.m. They study the Torah only, are kept away from their local community, and are taught that non-Jews must be avoided because the latter hate them. Moslem and Christian schools, likewise, are being influenced by religious extremists, making integration and social cohesion problematic.
Epicurus would have opposed this trend, which is divisive and breeds ignorance and suspicion where none existed before. If these people cannot integrate and be normal, tolerant citizens then they should go elsewhere. Unfortunately, they come because “elsewhere” doesn’t seem to produce acceptable government. A conundrum for us who subscribe to the inclusive world of Epicurus.
Sources: (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/is-londons-diversity-to-blame-for-its-unprogressive-views-on-homosexuality/)(http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/08/muslims-in-the-uk-are-now-attacking-mosques-does-that-make-them-islamophobic/) and (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33999801.)
(Topic and websites from Owen Bell)
“Speaking personally, I am attached to the ground. I would prefer to watch the precipitous movements of the damp foot of a duck as it scratches the back of its head by the side of a lake, or the long sparkling drops of water falling slowly from the mouth of a cow as it stands motionless and up to its knees drinking water from a pond, to anything the cherubim ( those illustrious flying forms) could perceive in their heavens”.
“Don’t speak to me about your religion ; first show it to me in how you treat other people.
Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all His children.
Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors.
In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give”.
(Sen. Cory Booker, addressing a group of American right-wing christians
Somewhat contrary to the expectations of some observers, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not, so far, introduced any extreme Hindu nationalist measures.
But in provincial India it is a different story. Hindu zealots have banned eating beef in the state of Maharashtra, for instance; the penalty for breaking the ban is five years in jail ( five years?!). This could be a prelude to a total national ban. It is not generally known inthe West, but India is second only to Brazil as a beef exporter, so imposing such measure would an economic disaster. Typically with religious extremists, the Hindus make up their religion as they go. In ancient Hinduism the gods enjoyed a good steak. The idea of the “sacred cow ” only came with Buddhism, which gradually influenced Hindus to abandon animal sacrifice. The extremists ignore history and the written word and rely on general ignorance to impose their own version of the religion. Surprise! Surprise!
The fact is that more than 250 million Indians are not Hindus, and India is a secular democracy, trying to bring itself into the 21st Century. It can do without this sort of ” religious” nonsense. (Based on an article along similar lines by Nirmalya Dutta, Mumbai)
Is Buddhism the only belief system on the planet that doesn’t seem to have its share of extremists? What breeds the need to dominate and boss everyone else around?
Some of the schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok, N.E Nigeria, last year may have been brainwashed into fighting for the Islamist militants. According to three women who claim they were held at the same Boko Haram camps as some of the girls, many of them are now being used to terrorise other captives and even carry out killings. The witnesses told the BBC’s “Panorama” programme that they had seen some of the girls flogging those unable to recite Koranic verses (most of the kidnapped girls were Christians), and also slitting the throats of male captives. The claims haven’t been independently verified, but Amnesty International said that kind of brutalisation of young girls did fit Boko Haram’s modus operandi. (Reported by the BBC and in The Week)
You don’t have to look far to see how very young, impressionable people, with few prospects, can be persuaded to do abominable things in the name of god. When the successors of the prophet Mohammed conquered a large part of the known world they were remarkably successful in making their conquests stick. Else why are there so many muslims in the world? They were not successful by beheading and torturing people (although no doubt there must have been atrocities). They taxed the non-believers. The Jews, for instance, thrived under a muslim regime in Spain, as long as they paid up; it was the Catholics who were threw them out in the name of Jesus. This modern lot so-called militant muslims are simply savages. Or maybe that’s unfair to savages?
Support for Iceland’s Pirate Party is soaring. According to a recent Gallup poll, 34.1 percent of the country said it stands behind the insurgent political movement that received just 5.1 percent of the vote in 2013.
The Pirate Party has just had its first major legislative victory — repealing a 75-year-old blasphemy law that made it a crime to “ridicule or insult” the teachings of a legally recognized religious community. Anyone found violating the blasphemy law had been subject to a fine and three months in prison. The law, established in 1940, came under fire after the Jan.7 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
To quote a section of the repeal act, it is “essential in a free society that the public express themselves without fear of punishment.”
While the vote was underway Thursday, all three members of the Pirate Party stood before parliament, known as the Althing, and declared “Je suis Charlie”, in solidarity with the French satirical publication.
In a statement after the vote, the party praised parliament for issuing “the important message that freedom will not bow to bloody attacks.”
The Icelandic churches all opposed repealing the blasphemy law. The Catholic Church wrote in a statement after the successful repeal: “Should freedom of expression go so far as to mean that the identity of a person of faith can be freely insulted, then personal freedom — as individuals or groups — is undermined.”
All religions, indeed, all public organisations, should be subject to thoughtful criticism. To use ad hominem foul language and to blast off incognito is the act of an ignorant coward. But to ask such questions as, “why does religion A appear to spawn violence, or interfere with a woman’s reproductive rights etc.” should be debated without fear of bullying. Likewise, the views of those who do not believe in the teachings of religion should be also be subject to (polite) debate. It is good for everyone to have their beliefs queried and tested; it makes you think, sometimes for a change.
The Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center a year ago showed the US growing less religious. Republicans consistently do well among voters with strong religious beliefs, and Democrats score better with younger people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is ‘nothing in particular’. More than a third of millennials — 18 to 33 year-olds — have no religious affiliation.
The study. a 35,000-person sample, showed a 10 percent decline in self-identified Christians, though they still are more than 70 percent of the US population. At the same time, the religiously nonaffiliated, or “nones,” have increased by about one-third and now account for about 23 percent of American adults, a trend with political implications.
The number of evangelical Protestants, the core of the Republican base since Ronald Reagan, has held steady, but the number of Catholics has declined to about a quarter of the electorate. White Catholics vote are more likely to be Republican, and their non-white counterparts Democrats. (Pew Research)
I have no argument with religion if it makes people feel happy and secure and they don’t bother me or my friends. There are wonderful people among them, doing good, selfless things for other people, especially the poor and the sick. What is annoying is when they do bother others, forcing on the rest of us their views on homosexuality, abortion, the teaching of history, of evolution and global climate change, claiming that their views are the immutable word of god. To these people change of any sort, however fair, just and democratic, is a fundamental threat. These are insecure people and should be sympathized with; at the same time, however, they should get their tanks off my lawn.
“Our dream dashes itself against the great mystery like a wasp against a window pane. Less merciful than man, God never opens the window”. Jules Renard, Journal 1906
Not all the activities of religion are harmful, e.g raising money for charity, Sunday schools and teaching children consideration and love. If the Sermon on the Mount were the sum of Christianity no one could argue. It is fear of death, indeed, everything to do with fear and support of the establishment, that is dangerous. If Jesus of Nazareth were shorn of his supernatural accretions given him by church tradition, he would be a fine model, a guru not unlike Buddha.
“That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject”. Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905-06
These are the words of Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace (lightly edited):
Anti-Semitism is real – that’s not up for debate. Wherever anti-Semitism exists, we need to stamp it out. But criticizing Israel isn’t anti-Semitic. Nor is speaking out against the occupation of Palestine.
Unfortunately, the State Department doesn’t see it that way. Their definition of anti-Semitism includes “demonizing,” “delegitimizing,” or creating a “double-standard” for Israel. These definitions are intentionally vague, and are already being used by colleges and others to silence those of us — Jews and non-Jews — who speak out against Israel’s human rights abuses.
Labeling legitimate criticism of Israeli aggression as anti-Semitism does not just stifle debate. It trivializes the real struggles of those who are being persecuted because of who they are. This isn’t an abstract issue. This State Department definition is having real ramifications, across the U.S. and around the world. All too often, Jewish Voice for Peace chapters and members are slandered for organizing boycotts of companies profiting from injustice in Israel. All too often, Palestinian students on campus are punished for sharing their stories of oppression and occupation.”
We need to end all forms of hate and prejudice, wherever they exist. But we won’t do that by muzzling activists. The State Department should revise its definition of anti-Semitism.
An article in the Daily Telegraph in Britain, written by Sean Thomas, listed some of the reports that link religious belief with health: in 2006, researchers at the University of Texas (it would be, wouldn’t it?) found that the more often people went to church, the longer they tended to live; a Duke University study found churchgoers tend to have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems. Other recent studies show that believers recover faster from surgery than their “heathen peers”, and have better outcomes from breast cancer and coronary disease, even after adjusting for the fact that they tend to smoke and drink less, and take fewer drugs. They enjoy better mental health, too, as a UCLA study of college students has found. Mr. Thomas ended with a clincher: believers give more to charity than atheists, “who, according to the very latest survey, are the meanest of all”. (reported in The Week).
I think writer misses the point. The point is to avoid mindless consumerism and have something in your life of consuming interest, something that exercises your mind, allows you to keep learning, that gives you feelings of pleasure, excitement and achievment. An objective, a mission in life, these also lower the blood pressure and the stress and strengthen the immune system. Speaking personally, I love creating things: a piece of music that works, a successful drawing, a poem. The lasting pleasure is enhanced if my wife looks at what I’ve done and exclaims, “I love it!”.
But this is only one person’s take. I can see that believing in a physical heaven with angels, where you are reunited with your loved ones, could be a great comfort in this life, even if one wouldn’t necessarily want bet ones last penny on it actually happening. Even devotion to astrology or a Druid cult is better than endless television. Corporations want us to be devoted to spending, a particularly stupid preoccupation in life. As for not being generous and charitable, what the article doesn’t say is that increasingly non-believers are young and have less disposable cash to give to charity. But their wish to help the poor and disadvantaged is undoubted.
A blogger has been publicly flogged for encouraging free speech in Saudi Arabia. Raif Badawi, 30, who set up the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in 2012, and charged with offences including insulting Islam. On his conviction last May, Badawi was fined 1m riyals (£175,000, $280,000) and sentenced to ten years in jail and 50 lashes every week for 20 weeks in a public square in Jeddah.
One of the only good things about fracking (no, this is not a non-sequitur) is that it promises to make the US a bigger source of oil than Saudi Arabia*. If that happy eventuality arises, we can hopefully stop pandering to those cruel barbarians in Saudi Arabia, halt the armament sales, and let the nasty regime fall. And good riddance. Enough of supporting these antiquated regimes, their beliefs as arid as the desert around them.
* That is, if a majority of frackers (who are apparently over-borrowed and expected oil prices to be close to $100 a barrel, not $50-60) survive.
There seems to be an idea gaining ground that racism and xenophobia have become a German nationwide problem, and that endless mistakes have been made by politicians dealing with social policy towards asylum seekers.
This is nonsense. The problem isn’t Germany’s social policy, it’s right-wing extremists, who can’t be reasoned with because they’re not rational. The municipality around Tröglitz, a community of 185,000 where neo-nazi thugs a while ago caused problems, contains just 47 foreigners, while what the local authority spends on housing refugees is a fraction of the €273m spent on social welfare for existing residents. So much for the “foreign infiltration” the extremists bemoan, and its “intolerable” burden on social security. The vast majority of Germans aren’t “filled with hate” against refugees. We don’t need expensive social and educational programs: we just need to deal firmly with the hooligans”. (The Week)
Regrettably, similar isolated incidents aimed at the Jewish community are being used to alarm liberal Jews in America. I had a long and pleasant conversation with a Jewish lady, who seemed convinced that European Jews would soon have to leave Europe and go to Israel. This is just the result AIPAC and some extreme Zionists want and exploit. There are thugs everywhere, but they have to be sat on – hard. I can only speak from what I know, but anti-semitism these days is insignificant (anti-moslemism is a different matter). Who knew that leader of the UK Labour Party, who has just resigned, was Jewish? I didn’t, nor do I care or think it relevant to his job. Most people would agree. There is a problem with people who refuse to integrate, and somehow we need to change their minds. But they are not Jewish and we should not tolerate thuggery against them or anyone else.
The following is the suggested notice to be posted at the entrances of businesses owned by by fundamentalist American Christians, such as wedding cake makers, who like to choose their customers – and their bible texts:
“Dear Valued Patrons.
Owing to my sincerely held religious beliefs, we will no longer be doing business with the following persons, nor permit them in our establishment:
1. Divorcees. Matthew 19:9: “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.”
2. Anyone who has ever read their horoscope or called a psychic hotline. Leviticus 20:6: “As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”
3. Anyone with a tattoo. Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”
4. Anyone born illegitimately. Also, anyone who, back to ten generations, is descended from someone born illegitimately. If you can not PROVE, using appropriate church sources, that ten generations of your family were born in wedlock, I will have to err on the side of caution and not serve you. Deuteronomy 23:2 “No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD.”
5. Anyone who makes a practice of praying aloud, or in public. Matthew 6:5-6 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
6. Any woman with braided hair or gold jewelry. Just to be on the safe side, NO jewelry at all. 1 Timothy 2:9 “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments.”
7. Please don’t bring your kids in if they have a bowl haircut. Leviticus 19:27 reads “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”
I refer you to Matthew 5:17-19, where Our Savior himself says: “…Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law (of the Prophets and the Old Testament) until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”
Again, I am sorry for the inconvenience. It’s nothing personal, “love the sinner but hate the sin,” and all, but I simply can’t serve anyone who would blatantly disregard God’s sacred law in such a fashion”. (Published first in Daily Cos)
Were Epicurus alive today he would be disappointed to note that mankind is still cherry- picking the bits of the law it feels inclined to pick. If Jesus could dine with prostitutes and tax collectors, why cannot fundamentalists take the money of gays and put it in the bank. It is as good as anyone else’s money, and once on the bank statement is indistinguishable from other money.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on same-sex marriage, which is now legal in about three dozen states. But it’s also legal in most states to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation. So, an LGBT person can get legally married in most states, but then be evicted from an apartment and denied a home loan. Gay-rights activists are urging state lawmakers to change anti-discrimination laws — which already include things such as race, age, religion and disability — to include LGBT people. Religious groups opposed to gay marriage, on the other hand, argue that the public accommodation element would unfairly require business owners to serve same-sex couples, even if they have a moral or religious objection. Should you as a society force them to do that out of principle? (precis of an NPR item May, 2015)
Everyone, regardless, should be covered by the anti-discrimination laws. This shouldnn’t even need to be debated; it is just that the law hasn’t caught up with public opinion. Gay couples should enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
I personally don’t object to the use of the word “marriage” for gay couples if that produces a happier and more pleasant life for them (basic Epicureanism), as opposed to using the term “civil union” which should in any case entail all the legal priviledges of marriage. There is insufficient love in the world as it is. But I respect the point of view that says that the word “marriage”, introduced as a sacrament by the Christian church in 1184, is freighted with tradition and religious and reproductive significance and changing the meaning can make even liberal and open-minded people uncomfortable. If the Supreme Court rules against extending the term “marriage” to LGBT couples, it may be that it was “too far, too quickly”. Moral: bide your time, do what’s practical, i.e. extend the legal priviledges first, and don’t provoke excessive push-back.
Morality is a pragmatic code of human conduct, devised from human experience, that allows us all to get on together with as little strife as possible. There are no rules except those agreed to from time to time for our safety and happiness. Do unto others as you would they would do unto you may have been put into the mouth of Jesus, but it is simply a piece of common sense. Self-interest and self-preservation ensure that, with exceptions, we all (most of the time) act morally and reasonably. Thus, one can be a moral person without being religious or subscribing to any one of the dozens of Christian, Moslem or other interpretations. We must rescue morality from the exclusive clutches of priests and pastors, muftis, mullahs and preachers. But having done that we have to teach our children right and wrong; they don’t spring from the womb immediately knowing how to behave. How are we dooing in this regard?
To The Daily Telegraph
Max Jalil draws a parallel between the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten and those depicting Jews in 1930s Germany. The former ridicule beliefs, the latter demonise people. David Culm (Letters, 10 January) states that we “should observe sensitivity and respect for other cultures’ beliefs”. This is wrong. We should show respect for other people, not their beliefs. These should be fully open to criticism, ridicule and opposition; especially those that justify murder as a response to mockery. (Mike Mahoney, Tetbury, Gloucestershire)
Some cock-eyed beliefs can be ignored as doing little damage. With others that is not true. Mr. Mahoney is referring mainly to religion, but there are dangerous beliefs about race, science and politics as well (“Obama is a moslem”, for instance) that are the result of deliberately malicious propaganda. The people concerned denigrate both people and ideas, and get away with it because so much of the public is poorly educated, doesn’t think for itself and makes no attempt to be informed. Are we supposed to respect both rabble rouser and those who believe every word they say? That would mean be respectful of the majority of individual Hitler/Nazi supporters, who happily absorbed his messages. “Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know”. (Montaigne)
Creflo Dollar, suitably named, is a so-called prosperity preacher. His “church” is called World Changers Church International and is in Atlanta. Prosperity churches promise wealth and health to those who tithe 10% of their income to the “church”.
Creflo Dollar has been seeking “200,000 people committed to sow $300 or more (to) help achieve our goal to purchase Gulfstream G650 jet “. Such a plane costs only $65 million. It would transport Pastors Creflo and Taffi Dollar and members of the Dollars’ church around the globe to help them “spread the gospel” (with some good meals thrown in) . The Gulstream seats up to 14 passengers with berthing for six, according to gulfstream.com. It is luxurious, and gets you from New York to Los Angeles in two and a half hours.
In soliciting the donations, Dollar’s site states, “We need your help to continue reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ. Your love gift of any amount will be greatly appreciated”. The request was contained in a video which included advocacy by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, of all people. Sirleaf at one time worked for the World Bank. This truly makes you wonder about human beings. (adapted a bit heavily from a piece by CNN).
Of all the American religious organizations the “prosperity” people are one of the most objectionable, and their flocks the most gullible. One can be taken in once in your life by a snake-oil salesman, but not continually. On the other hand, Dollar and his like clearly serve a need ( for money, in this instance) among very poor people for whom just having a little bit of hope in their lives (in this case, having enough money to be comfortable) is foremost in their minds. Abolish poverty and maybe the Dollars of the world would have to work for their living.
A series of leaked letters, written by some of the 376 young French jihadis fighting in Syria to their parents back in France, has been published by Le Figaro. Most express deep disillusion with the experience of fighting for Isis and other Islamist militant groups, and many beg their parents for advice on how to return home. Others complain that they are not so much warriors as dogsbodies. “I’ve basically done nothing except hand out clothes and food,” writes one jihadi, keen to return home from Aleppo. “I also help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. Winter has arrived here. It has begun to get really hard.” Another complains: “I’m fed up. They make me do the washing up.” And a third moans that “my iPod doesn’t work any more. I have to come back.”
There was a king called Stanislas 1st. He is quoted as saying that “Religion has nothing more to fear than not being sufficiently understood”. These young hotheads are now understanding it very sufficiently. Perhaps we should send more people out to Syria so that disillusionment will become more general? The Thirty Years War lasted, well, Thirty Years. This one may be over in a shorter time. Let’s hope so.
Thousands of Christians have resigned en masse from the Lutheran Church in Finland – the country’s national church – in response to its archbishop welcoming “with my whole heart” a parliamentary vote to allow same-sex marriage. Finland is set to become the final Nordic country (and the 12th in Europe) to enshrine marriage rights for same-sex couples. The bill, which originated as a citizen’s initiative, passed by a narrow margin. However, many Finnish Christians remain resolutely opposed to the move; within a day of Archbishop Kari Mäkinen’s comments, 7,800 people had formally resigned from the church, relieving them of their obligation to pay church taxes.
The archbishop did the right thing. Sometimes the right thing comes at a cost, but so be it. This old-fashioned idea that homosexuality is “lifestyle choice” should be buried and consigned to history. If same-sex marriage brings even a small bit of extra happiness into the world it can only be a good thing. You cannot be an Epicurean and support discrimination of any sort. Epicurus stood for a “live and let live” way of looking at life.
Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by the dozen.”
Michel de Montaigne
The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have blue eyes and red hair. Xenophanes, Fragment 15, 5th Century BC
Almost 18,000 people died in terrorist attacks around the world last year – an increase of 60% from the previous year. Four Islamist groups were responsible for most of the deaths: Isis, Boko Haram, al-Qa’eda and the Taliban. (The Global Terrorism Index)
Most of this is done specifically in the name of God and his Prophet. Is this not a good moment for God to come and put a stop to it? Or at least to comment? Send a sign? Any sign? Approval? Disapproval?
But there is a great silence, and few are listening to it.
“Why does our government let the Saudi royals do what they like with this country. Bad enough that last year Saudi Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz was given a licence to hunt the endangered houbara bustards, a bird on the brink of extinction. Even worse was that instead of killing his allotted 100, he slaughtered 2,100 – a “jaw-dropping” violation that felt like an open insult. This year the government gave the the Saudi princes blank licences to kill to their hearts’ content. It seems that as long as the Saudis keep funnelling cash their way, Pakistan’s elite lets the sheikhs do whatever they want – be it destroying our environment or poisoning our youths’ minds “with their petro-funded madrasahs”. The cash isn’t even used to fund infrastructure or jobs; it all ends up in our officials’ pockets. How wonderful it must be for the Saudis and their Pakistani accomplices to be members of an unaccountable elite that knows the law is only applied ‘to the common man’”. (published under the heading, “The licence we give the Saudis – the bustards”, by Gul Bukhari, The Nation, Lahore).
The Saudis are constantly buying sophisticated weaponry, yet are doing little or nothing to fight ISIS, because they can’t rely on the loyalty of their own military. It’s reassuring to see a Pakistani writer opposing the Saudi-funded madrasahs, which help ensure another un-educated generation that countries like Pakistan can ill afford, and which are doing their bit to radicalize Sunni youth everywhere they operate. But as for the attitude of Pakistani politicians towards the Saudis, European and American politicians and arms manufacturers behave in the same toadying manner towards this arrogant crowd of princelings, who contribute so little that is positive to the world.
To The Daily Telegraph
Your correspondents who think that one is duty-bound to respect other people’s religious views are mistaken. With religion, as with anything else, respect has to be earned. Many would find it difficult to respect a religion which regards women and gay people as inherently inferior; which believes that any questioning of its tenets is at best something that needs to be closed down, and at worst tantamount to blasphemy and deserving of the death penalty. This, of course, used to be a fair characterisation of Christianity. Fortunately this is, on the whole, no longer the case.
Roger White, London
The French government has unveiled new measures to promote both secular values and religious tolerance in its schools. Children will now be taught about the separation of church and state, the differences and similarities between the major religions, and asked to sign a charter banning racist and sexist behaviour, and disrespect “for any religion (sic) or symbol of democracy”. They will also learn about objective news gathering, propaganda and conspiracy theorising. The plan was formulated partly in response to complaints from dozens of schools that some Muslim pupils had refused to observe a nationwide minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris attacks.
This sounds open-minded and over-due. But what it will inevitably come down to is a discussion of Catholicism and Mohammedanism, with barely a mention of other important beliefs and philosophies of life, not to mention non-beliefs, that children should be exposed to. Lack of time will be given as the reason. What the French government should be doing is stressing the need for children to think for themselves – and that means giving them a choice. French education is not famous for encouraging children to think for themselves. In this case they may learn only the “what” and not the “why”.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is head of the commission created to advise Pope Francis on how to tackle clerical sex abuse of minors and make bishops accountable for cover-ups and failure to prevent abuse.
“Obviously,” he said, “there has to be consequences and there needs to be procedures that will allow these cases to be dealt with in an expeditious way.”(sic) (as reported on the NPR website)
If he is in fact reported correctly, then I hope his recommendations are couched in better English than his preliminary remarks! At the risk of seeming to be a pedant, these is bad English for the larst 500 years.
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463 cases of female genital mutilation are identified in English hospitals every month. (The Sunday Times)
Despite the fact that it is illegal, it has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of it, although the true extent of the practice is unknown.
The procedure is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It is traditionally carried out by a woman with no medical training. Anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments are not used, and knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades are typically used. Girls may have to be forcibly restrained.
Disgust dissuades me from discussing the various methods of female genital mutilation, but the National Health Service states that it interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. The pain is severe. It is likely to produce shock, bleeding, infections, including tetanus and gangrene, as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, along with other effects, such, yes, death. One can imagine the terrible, lifelong psychological effects of this traumatic experience.
This is an excellent example of the failure to integrate. And it is carried out by women! It is ancient tribal nonsense masquerading as some sort of religious tradition, a brutal physical assault on innocent young women. As such it should be punished with a long prison sentence. In addition, the passports of the parents responsible should be confiscated, frequent visits to premodern homelands only encouraging the practice. Enough of the pussy-footing political correctness that “tolerates” such cruelty.
38% of British women believe in God, compared to just 24% of men. 61% of women and 35% of men think there is an afterlife.
(1970 British Cohort Study/The Daily Telegraph)
Human Rights Watch is calling on Indonesia to scrap “virginity tests” given to female police recruits. Apparently, female recruits are subjected to the “two-finger test” to determine if they are virgins. Unsurprisingly, it is described it as painful and traumatic.
Senior police officials have claimed the practice has been discontinued. But the test is listed as a requirement for women applicants on the official police recruitment website, and Human Rights Watch interviews suggest it is still being widely applied.
Note that the tests were aimed at ensuring that recruits don’t have sexually transmitted diseases. So why are men not tested as well? Human Rights Watch say “virginity tests” are also used by police in other countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt and India. They are a violation of human rights and point to the sexism and gender inequality still rampant in some countries, which by now should know better.
All the Gods are dead except the god of war. (Eldridge Cleaver)
If you are of Epicurean persuasion you have to have sympathy with the fundamentalist pastors and professors in Christian colleges and churches in America. All their lives they have believed in the literal words of the old testament. They have preached it from the pulpit or have taught it in class (I am not saying that all teachers in dedicated Christian colleges have fundamentalist beliefs – clearly that would be untrue).
By now it is clear that the Earth was not created in seven days, that it is not six thousand years old and that the old testament is an anthropamorphic, self-contradictory collection of folklore, some of it very violent, that seeks to explain the world to a collection of iron age wandering tribes. Even given that the scriptures are thought to have been written ages after the events depicted (while the Hebrews were in captivity in Babylon), it is remarkable that they survived. But they are the work of man, with all the fallibility of his memory.
What do you do in the middle of a sermon or a semester? Suddenly announce that after all the Earth is 13 billion years old, that life on the planet derives from sea creatures, and that human beings gradually evolved from apes over a million years? Imagine the uproar! For a start, you would be shunned in the community, and possibly lose your job. No. In the face of overwhelming evidence you have to continue to be consistent or lose credibility and livelihood. You continue with the old discredited explanation of life on Earth. Truth is too troubling.
Thus, young people in 2015 are still being taught that Darwin was some sort of misguided devil and that some obscure and complicated part of the human body proves that human beings were put on Earth by an intelligent creator (must be male and white) only six thousand years ago. Thus, ignorance is perpetuated and may never be eliminated. All this has nothing to do with science – it is to do with tribal belief and inertia. It is frowned upon by modern Catholics for bringing religion into disrepute and by other Christian denominations for not being Christian anyway.
The malaise afflicting much of America is one of poor education.