Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

The Triumph of Ignorance

Friday, November 21st, 2008

– George Monbiot is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers.  

– I agree with him.   Fundamentalism does make and keep people stupid.  And it is one of the great shames of America that is has evolved into a powerful force here.

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By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 28th October 2008

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist?(1)

Like most people on this side of the Atlantic I have spent my adult life mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.

There have been exceptions over the past century: Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton tempered their intellectualism with the common touch and survived; but Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and John Kerry were successfully tarred by their opponents as members of a cerebral elite (as if this were not a qualification for the presidency). Perhaps the defining moment in the collapse of intelligent politics was Ronald Reagan’s response to Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debate. Carter – stumbling a little, using long words – carefully enumerated the benefits of national health insurance. Reagan smiled and said “there you go again”(2). His own health programme would have appalled most Americans, had he explained it as carefully as Carter had done, but he had found a formula for avoiding tough political issues and making his opponents look like wonks.

It wasn’t always like this. The founding fathers of the republic – men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton – were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it. How did the project they launched degenerate into George W Bush and Sarah Palin?

On one level this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves around the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15 year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD(3).


– research thanks to Van

Lawyers Broadside Mideast Bloggers, Media With ‘Hisba’ Lawsuits

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

– We in the U.S. say we are the beacon of freedom in the world.   And perhaps we are the freest country but I seriously question how we go about trying to spread the wealth of freedom.   We give a large amount of money every year to Egypt (Egypt and Israel are our two largest aid targets).

– But it is hard to see where any of this has been conditioned on advancements in Egyptian human rights and freedoms.   Apparently, we prop up their bullshit because they’ll support ours – hardly an active strategy for improving the world.  I would prefer to see us ‘walk our talk’.   Some might argue that in the short-term it might frustrate some of our geopolitical aims but I would assert that in the long-term it would gain us the genuine respect that wears better over time.

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CAIRO – Lawyers across the region have taken to filing ‘hisba’ lawsuits against bloggers, journalists and intellectuals in an effort to stem the flow of what they deem heretical Islamic ideas. In Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4 blogger Roshdi Algadir was arrested for a poem he posted on his blog to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Algadir was beaten and forced to sign an agreement to never again publish work on the Internet.

Hisba was established in early Islamic jurisprudence to enable individuals to publically discuss matters of religion. Leading Islamic scholar, Gamal al-Banna said that in the past it was “a construct used to promote the good and criticize the bad. Every individual in an Islamic society is responsible for the actions of the society.”

In more recent times, since the ascension of increasing radical notions of Islamic thinking in the region, hisba lawsuits – which are cases filed by private people in the name of protecting state interests – have been used to stifle rather than promote public discourse on Islam. Essentially, in modern times, hisba has been used as a means of accusing commentators of apostasy, a claim with far reaching consequences in Muslim societies.


Shocking acts of cruelty in religious strife

Friday, October 10th, 2008

– I’ve ragged on India before.   It is my strong opinion that if a nation wants to present a first world hi-tech face to the world, it might have a serious thought about correcting its third-world medieval problems at home as part of an integrated effort to bring the whole country forward.

– India is both blessed with some of the best hi-tech minds of the 21st century and some of the biggest hypocrisies in the world.   Stunning poverty, class prejudices, bride burning and on and on.   And now, the story below:

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As she recalled her awful story, Puspanjali Panda, 38, made no attempt to halt the tears pouring down her face.

Holding her daughter close, she told how a Hindu mob dragged her husband – a Christian pastor – from his bed, beat him to death with stones and iron rods and then threw him into a river.

She found his corpse two days later, washed up on the bank. When she went to the police, they told her to go away.

Panda and thousands of others like her are victims of the worst communal violence between Hindus and Christians that India has seen for decades.

For a country that boasts of its mutual religious tolerance, the long-simmering tension that has erupted in the Kandhamal district of the state of Orissa – a nun being raped, churches being burned, at least 35 people killed and thousands forced from their villages – is both a belated wake-up call and a mounting embarrassment.

More… (if you can stomach it)

Fundamentalist [fill in the blank]

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

– There’s a lot of folks deeply concerned about Islamic Fundamentalism and I’m not saying they are wrong to be worried.  But, they might just take a look back over their shoulder to see who else might be coming down that road.

“Joel’s Army believers are hard-core Christian dominionists, meaning they believe that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians and a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. There is no room in their doctrine for democracy or pluralism.”

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‘Arming’ for Armageddon

Militant Joel’s Army Followers Seek Theocracy

LAKELAND, Fla. — Todd Bentley has a long night ahead of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the 32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced, shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a continuous “supernatural healing revival” in central Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet and don’t bat an eye when he tells them he’s seen King David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. “He was looking very Jewish,” Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read “Joel’s Army.” They’re evidence of Bentley’s generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that’s gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other “hyper-charismatic” preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel’s Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian “dominion” on non-believers.

“An end-time army has one common purpose — to aggressively take ground for the kingdom of God under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Dread Champion,” Bentley declares on the website for his ministry school in British Columbia, Canada. “The trumpet is sounding, calling on-fire, revolutionary believers to enlist in Joel’s Army. … Many are now ready to be mobilized to establish and advance God’s kingdom on earth.”

Oh yes, you should read more of this…

Mexico City Struggles With Law on Abortion

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

MEXICO CITY — When Mexico City’s government made abortion legal last year, it also set out to make it available to any woman who asked for one. That includes the city’s poorest, who for years resorted to illegal clinics and midwives as wealthy women visited private doctors willing to quietly end unwanted pregnancies.

But helping poor women gain equal access to the procedure has turned out to be almost as complicated as passing the law, a watershed event in this Catholic country and in a region where almost all countries severely restrict abortions.

Since the city’s legislature voted for the law in April 2007, some 85 percent of the gynecologists in the city’s public hospitals have declared themselves conscientious objectors. And women complain that even at those hospitals that perform abortions, staff members are often hostile, demeaning them and throwing up bureaucratic hurdles.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Afghan student in torture claim

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

– I wrote about this case previously back on February 1st, 2008.   I said then, and remind you now, that this is the government we (the US) put into power and are supporting in Afghanistan.

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An Afghan student journalist who was sentenced to death for blasphemy has told an appeals court that he confessed after being tortured.

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh was convicted in January of insulting Islam.

But at the appeals court in Kabul the 24-year-old insisted he was innocent of all the charges.

He said he was tortured into confessing that he had disrupted university classes by asking questions about women’s rights under Islam.

He was also convicted of distributing an article on the same subject, and adding three additional paragraphs.

He told the crowded, hour-long appeal hearing: “As a Muslim … I never allow myself to do such a thing. These are totally lies.”

Kambakhsh’s death sentence was handed down during a closed-door trial, which drew condemnation from parts of the international community.


Saudi women make video protest

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Saudi women’s rights activists have posted on the web a video of a woman at the wheel of her car, in protest at the ban on female drivers in the kingdom.

Wajeha Huwaider talks of the injustice of the ban and calls for its abolition as she drives calmly along a highway.

She says the film was posted to mark International Women’s Day. Thousands have viewed it on the YouTube website.

The last such public show of dissent was in 1990 when dozens of women were arrested for circling Riyadh in cars.


Southern Baptists Back a Shift on Climate Change

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention’s official stance on global warming, 44 Southern Baptist leaders have decided to back a declaration calling for more action on climate change, saying its previous position on the issue was “too timid.”

The largest denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, is politically and theologically conservative.

Yet its current president, the Rev. Frank Page, signed the initiative, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.” Two past presidents of the convention, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt, also signed.

“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the church leaders wrote in their new declaration.

A 2007 resolution passed by the convention hewed to a more skeptical view of global warming.

In contrast, the new declaration, which will be released Monday, states, “Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed.”

The document also urges ministers to preach more about the environment and for all Baptists to keep an open mind about considering environmental policy.

Jonathan Merritt, the spokesman for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative and a seminarian at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said the declaration was a call to Christians to return to a biblical mandate to guard the world God created.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Iran to Punish Apostasy with Death

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

 – Most people who believe that their religion is the best religion seem to find no irony in the idea that those who don’t want to believe, of their own free will, should need to be pressured to believe – in this case under penalty of death.

– It’s always seemed to me that if something is the ‘best’, then its superior qualities should be self evident to all.  And if folks have to be compelled to believe in its superior qualities, then I can think of no better indictment of its inferior nature.

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Apostasy — or the formal renunciation of religion — is already punishable in Iran with death. But now, Iran wants to make the death penalty for apostasy part of the penal code. The European Union is concerned and has asked Iran to reconsider.

The European Union this week sent a letter to authorities in Iran expressing its concern over a proposed change to the penal code that would make apostasy punishable by death.

The EU is responding to news that the Islamic Republic is planning to subject “apostasy, heresy and witchcraft” to the Hudud — the body of fixed punishments assigned to crimes that are considered violations of the “claims of God.” Other Hadud crimes include alcohol consumption, theft, highway robbery and illegal sexual intercourse.

As the news agency Reuters reported earlier this week, the EU, which opposes the death penalty as a matter of policy, expressed “acute concern” over the proposed penal code revision.

“These articles clearly violate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitments under the international human rights conventions,” Slovenian leaders, who currently head the rotating EU presidency, wrote in a statement.

“The EU calls upon the Iranian authorities, both in government and parliament, to modify the draft penal code in order to respect the obligations.”

The death penalty has already been applied to apostates in Iran — but this was never, since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979, institutionalized as a matter of legal practice.

Iran typically dismisses Western criticism of its legal system, claiming that Islamic law is fundamentally different.


Pleas for condemned Saudi ‘witch’

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened.

‘Undefined’ crime

The US-based group is asking the Saudi ruler to void Ms Falih’s conviction and to bring charges against the religious police who detained her and are alleged to have mistreated her.

Its letter to King Abdullah says the woman was tried for the undefined crime of witchcraft and that her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them.

Human Rights Watch says the trial failed to meet the safeguards in the Saudi justice system.

The confession which the defendant was forced to fingerprint was not even read out to her, the group says.

Also Ms Falih and her representatives were not allowed to attend most of the hearings.

When an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest.

To the original: