Category Archives: Religion

No Muslim woman casts vote

This is an example of sexism and religion at work. Not that the two don’t often go hand in hand anyway.

Purulia (WB), May 7 (PTI) Not a single Muslim woman today cast vote in two booths specially arranged for them with women polling staff in Para assembly constituency in Purulia district today.

“It is unfortunate that none of the 641 Muslim women came out to vote in two polling booths despite posting women polling personnel as desired by them,” Sub-divisional officer who is in charge of Para constituency, Abid Hussain said.

While Sk Omar (55), a local male voter, told PTI that the women were willing to vote, but their husbands did not allow them to come out, Mohammed Unus (60) tried to argue that the women boycotted the vote for non-development of the area.

Unus, however, cast his vote.

The women had not voted earlier on the plea that they did not have Electoral Photo Identity Cards since they were unwilling to be photographed by a male photographer, District Magistrate A Singh said.

Honouring their wishes a female photographer had been employed to take their photos for the EPICs, Singh said. PTI CORR PR

Their husbands didn’t allow them to vote. Imagine that. Imagine not being permitted to exercise your right to vote. Imagine having your husband limit your freedoms in such a dogmatic way. Imagine being a man who felt that he had to control his wife to such an extent that she was not allowed to travel to the polling station to vote, even though special consideration for your faith had been made.

That doesn’t sound like a positive, loving relationship, does it? Isn’t it past time that the feminist movement reached beyond the West?

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Sally Army Cheats

The city council of Wellington, New Zealand granted permission to Wellington Rape Crisis for their annual fund raiser. This one day appeal brings in around 20% of the charity’s annual income and goes to help the victims of rape, sexual assault and abuse. They provide support and counselling as well as advocacy for victims and medical centres, police and the courts. They also provide educational resources and referrals to other agencies. Source. All good work and unfortunately necessary.

Wellington require any organisation to get permission to collect money on council land (public highways, shopping centres, etc) which is quite reasonable and no doubt helps to limit swindlers and other bogus charity collections as well as keeping the charity workers in some kind of organised pattern so that everyone doesn’t descend over a single weekend.

The Salvation Army don’t care about that though. They don’t seem to care about the victims of rape or about giving smaller charities a fair chance to collect money. What they’ve done is to compete with Wellington Rape Crisis and defy the council rules by collecting in the middle of the charity’s week long appeal. Another example of Christian charity no doubt.

It makes me wonder if the Salvation Army isn’t getting too big to do good any more. There was a time when I considered the charity to be one of the better Christian charities out there (not that I’d give to a religious charity when there are so many good secular ones out there) but this news is just disturbing. It comes only a fortnight after The Poppy Project was reported to have lost their funding to the Sally Army too (as reported by tenderhooligan). Of course they also have a record of promoting superstition rather than actually helping victims of rape and hold an

International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for the Victims of Sex Trafficking.

I’m sure that’s a great help. NOT!

If you give to charity please choose one that does some good with your money and treats people fairly. Thank you.

Source

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First Contact

This is a re-post of something I wrote for Off The Map – Atheist in 2008 but with the errors tidied up so that I look cleverer.

RememberI remember my first personal encounter with religion vividly. I’m not talking about attending the weddings of my cousins or family friends, saying the Lord’s Prayer at cub scouts or even the daily rote lectures that took the place of religious education at school. Religion in these contexts was easy to ignore as it was simply part of the ritual of the institution. I’m talking about my first contact outside of this protective bubble.

I was about 10 or 11 years old and in typical boyish fashion I’d been out all day on my bike. We used to ride our bikes all over the woods and hills, looking for new dens or places to hide. It was summer and very hot and I was tired. I’d cycled most of the way home but decided that I wanted a drink. I hopped off my bike, dumped it on the pavement (we were just as inconsiderate of pedestrians in my day) and popped into the nearest shop. I should point out that the newsagents of the day weren’t all 7\11 clones but small, privately owned affairs typically run by families. You had to go to the counter and ask for what you wanted and the staff would fetch it for you.*

PrayingNo-one was behind the counter though, at least no-one that I could see. I had to wait. Without warning a little old lady got up off the floor from behind the counter. “Sorry,” she said, “I was just praying”. I mumbled something , bought my drink and left. I couldn’t help wonder though: Why was she praying? What good would it do? Why was she on her knees? and while she was working? To my childish mind this was an glimpse of something that I didn’t think I should see, something taboo. I’ve never quite shaken that idea and, to this day, public displays of faith make me uncomfortable.

It may have been the reaction to my presence that turned me off the idea of prayer. Why leap to her feet (as far as the elderly can) if her behaviour is normal? Why offer the “I was just praying” excuse if the act was acceptable?

Embarrassment occurs in socially awkward situations. These may be caused by misunderstandings but more often they result from a realisation on the part of the embarrassed person that their behaviour is not normal. If you are caught talking to yourself you feel embarrassed. That embarrassment signifies the behaviour as abnormal within the social situation.

This is why I think people pray in groups and why the instruction in the bible (Matthew 6:5) to pray alone is significant. It signifies that you should avoid shame in your actions, whether prayer or not. If you can justify to yourself that your actions are right then you do not need to feel shame.

The ritualization of prayer, if ritual and prayer are different things, must help people to overcome that embarrassment. The sincere belief in talking to God must be secondary to the social situation. It must be or churches would not be so prevalent. I wonder then, how much of prayer is directed towards a deity rather than towards a group effort?

If a congregation pray to spare little Jimmy from terminal cancer, then the group support towards the effort is what unites the group. Not the effectiveness of the prayer. If little Jimmy dies it is “God’s Will” and the group is blameless but if he survives then it is as a result of the group action. In that regard it is a method for getting Christians to agree with one another.

*This makes me sound really old but it wasn’t that long ago. Only about 25 years….Oh dear, I am old.

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Dalai Lama offers $100,000 to religion department

http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-05-27-voa21.cfm

Dalai LamaA bit of context first.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama was honoured by the Florida school in 1999 with a doctorate of divinity so he has a personal interest in the welfare of the school.  However I believe that this has only highlighted the financial issue with him rather than defined his reaction.  I’m a bit biased of course because his writings portray him as a person with few material desires and little regard for considerations of status. In a largely material western world this is unusual.

The news story states “Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has offered to donate $100,000 to help save the religious studies program at Florida International University.”

His reasoning for this support is outlined in a letter to the university president where he said that “understanding and appreciation of diversity of religions is critical in fostering a culture of genuine tolerance and peaceful existence.”  A laudable sentiment that crosses boundaries of faith and fosters cooperation and compassion.

Some may wonder how my support of this can be reconciled with my dislike of state funded education by religious schools.  As I explained in the comments I see a clear difference between education about religion and education by religion.  Tenzin Gyatso, the current and 14th Dalai Lama is supporting a cause that educates people about religion and about culture that is intertwined with religious thinking and expression.  He is not supporting a cause that churns out pastors or monks (although people might choose that path) by indoctrinating people into a faith.

DogmaThe key point here is that he has chosen to support an attitude of understanding and cooperation rather than supporting dogma.  He has chosen not to put his own view of Buddhism ahead of Christianity or Islam but to foster an attitude that encompasses all faiths and, dare I say it, no faith.

Good for him.

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Muslim School Funding

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/may/26/reussite-france-muslim-school

I read the above story with interest this morning.  It seems that the French are happy to fund faith schools for Christians but not for Muslims.  Quite why they (or any other nation) fund faith schools is beyond me. 

Shouldn’t the faith of people be a personal matter?  Shouldn’t faith be separate from state interference and support?  Can’t we leave religion alone and expect it to leave us alone?  Why should we expect schools to indoctrinate children into a faith at all?

That said, if you have one rule for Christian or Catholic (I know they’re Christian too) schools then that rule should apply to Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’i, Hindus, whatever.  Shouldn’t it?

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Biblical Morality

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

 

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin’ has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

Before anyone with a religion tells me that I’m just being silly, I know.  It’s a joke.

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Monk Fight (again)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7718587.stm

Fighting erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion.

You seriously couldn’t make this stuff up.

Shocked pilgrims looked on as decorations and tapestries were toppled during Sunday’s clash.

Dressed in the vestments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations, rival monks threw punches and anything they could lay their hands on.

So much for the message of loving thy neighbour or turning the other cheek.

The Daily Mash has an amusing twist on the story.

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What Kind of God Would You Be?

Blatantly stolen from Dubito Ergo Sum

The meme: list at least four things that you’d do if you were God. Assume the same thing I do: you’re omnipotent (do the logically impossible!) and whatever you do will work out fine with the laws of physics, such as they are.

  1. My holy book gets regular updates and version releases. Times change and people come up with fantastic ideas all the time.  Limiting myself to a book set in a particular time just seems crazy.  It has to move with the times.
  2. I’m banning prayer.  Seriously I have better things to do as an omnipotent deity than listen to your whingeing.  Get over yourself.  I’m not setting up a celestial bureaucracy to deal with prayer requests and no horde of angels will be sifting through your commentary for good points.  I’m God and I get to read your mind if I like.  If you come up with a good idea I’m taking it.  In fact if you do pray I’m going to turn it around so it works against you.  You’re wasting your time and mine.  If you want to change something then go and change it, don’t ask me.  Finally if you even think about praying for your football team to win then you’re asking for the ground to open up and swallow you.  I will do it.
  3. Priests of my new faith are required to wear silly hats or outlandish costumes so that nobody ever takes what they say seriously.  What?  The Catholics have already got this rule?  Dammit!
  4. There will be no heaven and hell.  The afterlife will work like this:
    • When you die you get to review of your entire life.
    • Every mean, spiteful, vindictive act that you inflicted on your fellow human would be given back to you.  You get to live the life of the people you harmed so that you can appreciate the full impact of your wrong.
    • Every act of kindness, love, charity and aid that you offer or provide to your fellow human would be given back to you.  You get to live the life of the people you helped so that you can appreciate the full impact of your good deeds.
    • In fact you get to live the life of everyone who you touched in some small way to see how you influenced them.  This means that Hitler literally gets to experience the suffering off millions and Gandhi gets to live the peace of everyone who he influenced.  A suitable punishment\reward system in my opinion.
    • Then, with perfect clarity, you get to live your own life again but this time you can change things.
  5. People get to be really tough and get to heal really quickly.  A fall from a 10th floor window may result in broken bones but these will mend in a week or two.  Gunshot wounds can be shrugged off.  Basically you get to be as tough as the hero in a Hollywood movie.

I’m going to tag everyone who wants to play.

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Filed under Atheist, Reasons to be cheerful, Religion, You decide

Prophecy

It started the other night when I was walking home with Cake Worm.  We started talking about how witches always seem to be portrayed as wizened old hags and never as beautiful women.  Inevitably we ended up talking about MacBeth and the witches prophecy:

First Witch 
All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch 
All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch 
All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Also the comment from Deb

Mr. Frog…I hope u’ll hop over and give me your explanation on how things that were written thousands of years ago have come to pass, are coming to pass and will come to pass…I’m sure there is a logical explanation

got me thinking about the nature of prophecy.  Actually it goes back to Greta’s post on predictions from earlier in the year. 

Is it that they that come true because we make them come true or because they would come true anyway?

Now, before anyone leaps up and yells “Hey Mr Frog.  You don’t believe in the supernatural.  How can you believe in prophecy?” let me explain.   A prophecy that does not come true isn’t a prophecy.  It just doesn’t count,  That’s why so called psychics throw scores of predictions out and then grandly announce the fact when they get one right.  It is prophecy because it becomes true, before that it is simply a statement.

I have some tips for people who wish to write their own prophecies.  As a gamer since I before I was a teenager (and that was a while ago) I have enjoyed writing and being subjected to prophecy in a game (or The Game as we often call it) environment. 

Multiple meanings: Come up with three meanings for every element in a prophecy, so that if one thing is prevented, the others can step in.  Daniel 9 26 “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”  Suitably vague.  Sixty two ‘sevens’ could mean weeks or loaves of bread or anything else that you get lots of.  The Anointed One could be the Jesus figure, a holy pilgrim or someone who got rained on.  It doesn’t matter as long as you leave the answer open to interpretation.

The Wizard’s Bluff: Find ways to make avoiding a problem, cause the problem.  An unfair technique but useful if you need something to happen or to explain something that can’t go another way.  For instance, say you need to prophecy one person being in Ankh Morpork but they refuse to go there.  In avoiding the problem they try to escape and end up getting lost and going to the very place that they wanted to avoid.  A simpler method is a lever that either opens a trap door or prevents it opening.  If you need someone to fall through the trap door then it doesn’t matter if you pull the lever or not because it’s going to happen the way it has been foretold.  This is very much a “heads I win, tails you lose” gambit.

What’s your name?: Don’t give names but use vague references instead.  When you want Bill the plasterer to be your focus of the prophecy never use his name.  Use “the third son with hands of clay”or “the dark eyed laughing one”.  If you want to prophecy a death don’t say that “only a man who was born by Cesarean section can kill you”.  Turn it round to the positive and mysterious.  Say instead “None of woman born shall harm MacBeth”.  It’s suitably vague and leaves unsaid the key point.

When was that again?:  Don’t give dates of events at all if you can help it or use an odd method of calculating dates like an ancient language or a vague unit like age or season.  For example say “In the season of darkness” when you mean winter.  You can always reveal later that this meant a time of lunar eclipse or night time or even a very overcast day.  Avoid specifics.  Daniel 9 26s sixty-two ‘sevens’ is another example.

Where was I?:  Don’t use place names.  Use a description instead.  Instead of saying Rome, for example, say The City of Seven Hills.  That way you can use another city that happens to have seven hills (or mounds, or piles of rubbish even) if your first choice lets you down.

Retroactive Prophecy:  One of my favourites.  Have a figure of importance make some off hand comment that is open to interpretation.  Write it down.  Later some event could occur and people will point at that comment and say “Wow, that was spot on.  Amazing!”.  My example is another biblical one Matthew 24 1-2 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

The key to prophecy is to be vague and to get others to look for meaning.  Never be explicit, never clarify.  When you get close to the mark make sure that you shout out that you got it right.  Only then should you explain that you meant this or that all along.  If anyone doubts you then all you need to do is accuse them of lacking faith and demand that they explain how you could be so accurate with your prophecy.

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What’s in the box?

I’ve once again been chatting online with people of religious belief.  It struck me that many people often look at things as either black or white, positive or negative.  This isn’t a trait of the religious but I have noticed it in my Christian verses atheist debates.  You know the spiel: atheists have no morals because they follow no Gods, Christians are all proselytizing Jesus-freaks.  Nonsense, of course.  Yet, as human beings, we find it convenient to simplify and categorise things that we encounter.  There’s probably some sort of inherited survival trait responsible.

One particular thing that bothers me is the idea of sin.  I’ve often been seen to praise one or more of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins (Greed, Lust, Pride, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, and Sloth) as having positive aspects.  I don’t think that I’ve ever explained my reasoning though or put them all in one place.

Well this is my blog and I’ll write about sin if I please.

Greed or a desire for wealth may be bad when taken to extremes but in a modern society wealth means that you pay more taxes and contribute more to society.  You have the ability to spend money on consumer goods which need to be made by someone.  Someone whose job you have secured with your expenditure.  Wealth begets more wealth and greedy people are willing to invest in order to secure that wealth and increase it.

Lust or strong sexual desire often accompanied with fertility is one of my very favourite “sins” ;).  Our very species relies upon sexual desire for procreation.  We wouldn’t want to go the way of the panda now would we?  A dose of lust keeps a relationship healthy and allows us to overlook small foibles in our partners.  I’m willing to let the fact that The Hildy puts spoons in the draining rack upside down when I know I’m going to get some action at some point.  She similarly forgives my minor annoyances (not that I am ever annoying) that would otherwise build up without some healthy release.

Pride or feeling of self-respect and personal worth is another of my favourite “sins”.  I feel proud when I perform a task well or create something that I place value upon.  I am willing to stand up for my opinions and ideas that I think are right.  Lack of pride can lead to others taking advantage of you as you lack self worth and so defer to others.

Gluttony or the consumption of food and drink in abundance isn’t one of my favourites but eating a hearty meal is a pleasure.  More than the actual consumption though the very fact that you can provide a large repast speaks of your success.  We don’t live my hunting and gathering any more but a large meal has to be paid for and being able to provide it is cause to celebrate.

Envy or a feeling of grudging admiration and desire to have something that is possessed by another, an eager striving if you will is an excellent motivator.  I’m not so keen on “keeping up with the Joneses” but seeing someone else’s well earned success may well prompt me to work harder.

Wrath or belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong is a righteous anger against something.  The key thing here is that the anger is in response to a perceived wrong.  If some ‘tard blocks the footbridge at the train station with their foolishly placed luggage then I have a right to be angry and express that anger.  In fact if anyone does something that angers me then I may well be prompted into action. I shouldn’t let my anger control me but I can certainly let it motivate me.  Some of the greatest changes in society have been prompted by wrath.  Do you think that the civil rights movement would have even started if people had not been angry at the unfairness of their situation?

Sloth or a disinclination to work or exert yourself or simply to rest and recover is a fine reward for hard work.  To describe it as a sin is to dismiss the efforts that allow a person to rest and relax.  How often have you simply needed to take a break?  Recovery is important to keeping a person going.

Well these are my justifications for why sin can be good and why looking at the world in black and white means that you miss the shades of grey.  I’d love to expand on this and hear any comments that you might have.

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