Sunday Sundries — Spiritual Odds and Religious Ends

As usual, lots of weird news from religion land.  Let’s start with this AP report about a Baptist minister in St. Cloud, MN who paid for a newspaper ad stating that Muslims “seek to influence a nation by immigration, reproduction, education, the government, illegal drugs and by supporting the gay agenda.”

This minister clearly knows nothing about the Koran or Islamic doctrines.  Support for illegal drugs and the gay agenda?  Seriously?  Drugs and homosexuality will, in many places where Sharia law governs, get you jailed or executed.  The American religious right’s hatred for — and ignorance of — Islam never ceases to amaze.

Islam, however, has some doctrinal problems which should be cause for alarm.  I am speaking of beating wives and women.  I found this disquisition on the topic at the Siasat Daily: “Does Islam Allow Wife Beating?”  The lengthy and convoluted answer is yes.  For those who wish to beat their wives in accordance with Islamic doctrine and in the proper manner(s), you can find about ten videos (produced primarily by imams and mullahs) on “the rules” for wife beating — here.  Simply bizarre.

Over at the NYT, Tenzin Gyatso has penned another in a long line of ecumenical, pipe-dream pieces which reduce all religions and faiths to a imaginary single truth — in this case, “compassion” — and argues that everyone just needs to get along.  In the history of religions, this has never happened and it is not going to happen.  You can, of course, be compassionate without religion or faith (see last paragraph in this post).

This fundamental issue aside, all religions and faiths cannot be flattened and reduced to a single mantra such as “compassion” or “love.”  Liberal religionists can keep writing these things for their educated and ecumenical counterparts from other faiths, but they are simply talking to one another, while the vast majority of religionists go about their usual intolerant business.

The PR Newswire reports that a consortium of influential Christian-right groups in the United States is already complaining about an upcoming South Park episode titled “JC,” which will no doubt satirize Christianity.  With no apparent sense of irony, and certainly no awareness that South Park satirizes most religions with equal relish, the group issued this statement:

“When Christians attempt a serious discussion over Islam, they are labeled as intolerant and bigoted, but Comedy Central’s treatment of Christianity is condoned and tolerated as humor. Comedy Central seems to confuse Christian peacefulness as weakness, and has taken advantage of it through their programming. But when advertisers are alerted to this type of programming, I do believe they’ll communicate with Viacom and tell them they don’t want their products associated with a show like ‘JC.'”

When has the Christian right in America attempted a serious discussion of Islam?  I am not aware of any such discussions.  The Christian right does not discuss Islam; it simply attacks it (see first paragraph above).  Ah, the joys of exclusivist monotheisms.

Over at Slate, James Verini has a nice story on how to become a Catholic saint.  It provides considerable insight into a rather bizarre tradition and provides a roadmap for those who wish to become a saint within the next few hundred years.  Verini concludes that it takes money, a medical miracle, and compelling life story to become a saint.  Begin practicing your faith healing skills now.

On a more positive note, yet another study reported by LiveScience shows that humans — in this case toddlers — are born with a sense of altruism and desire to help others:

Previous research has found that 60 percent to 80 percent of children regularly try to help people by the time they are 14 to 18 months old. They will, for example, quickly fetch fallen objects or open doors for people without prompting.

Although parents surely promote this behavior, “children come into the world with a biological sensitiveness to pick up on these social cues,” said [the study’s author].

No religion required.

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