A few quickies for today, just for the chuckles of it all.
First, a completely straight article about magic in Islam. Now, the more secular or not-believing-in-magic among you, or those of you who just happen to think that religions other than your own are a little kooky, will probably find this somewhat humorous. I'll admit, I do too. I can't help myself. But there is an interesting point to take away from it. Note the descriptions of 1) the rituals performed by the magic-sellers and 2) the rituals performed by the religion-sellers, or, in this case, sheiks. Not so different, eh? Well, actually, that's to be expected. Traditionally there has been a very thin line between "magic" rituals and "religious" rituals. The difference, in some views, is only the kind of person performing the ceremony. You see, to both these people, the magic is real. The sheiks are just on the "good" side and will break a curse for a nominal fee. The "sorcerers" are on the "bad" side and may make or break a curse, for the right price. The rituals are nearly identical, it's just one guy gets to wear a funny robe or hat and claim ultimate divine authority, and the other guy wears a funny robe or hat and claims (usually) some lesser or personal authority. Now, for those of you who want to claim that we are too civilized for that kind of thing, need I remind you there are groups in this country who still practice and believe in faith healing, in praying for more rain or less rain, spiritual anointing, that prayers protect people, and that God may give you what you want if you ask and believe hard enough. A very, very thin line.
Secondly, this article about a recent study. It would seem that, on average, one out of every thirty-three women who regularly attend worship services have had sexual advances made by religious leaders. So, on average, for everyone 100 women in a congregation, 3 have been advanced upon by a religious leader. And two of those three were probably married at the time. Ahh...see, this is what I've tried to tell you before - watch the people who protest the loudest that they are the most moral. They're the ones typically hiding something. See, once you have it so ingrained in your head that you are the morally superior one, you can start writing off discrepancies, because you ARE moral, or God forgives those few discrepancies, and anyway, you're still much better than the rest of THOSE sinners, they must be ten times as worse. It's called cognitive dissonance, and it's one of the oldest tricks in the book. So, to be clear, I'm not saying "moral people aren't moral," I'm saying "people who CLAIM THE HARDEST to moral often are not." It just so happens that religions and religious people like to hold high that particular banner, and so there is a biased population there. Lest we forget Ted Haggard, who only recently has discovered (after years of fire-and-brimstone preaching against gays and divorcees, etc) that his sexuality is "complex" and will take time to resolve, after snorting meth with a gay prostitute...right. Lest we forget California Assemblyman Michael Duvall, who loves having affairs with "really hot" women, enjoys a bit of spanking, and...oh, is so totally against allowing gays the right to marriage in California and is a strong promoter of "traditional family values." Lest we forget all those Catholic priests who...well, you get the idea. This isn't commentary on religion directly, although anyone who knows me knows I have my beef with organized religion, especially when it tries to wiggle its way into policy, but it is something to be noted. Keep a careful eye on those moral vanguard, lest you be disappointed when you find out just how much of con men they are.
Lastly, a straight-faced sarcastic proposal to make divorce illegal in California. I think he's very good. A little obvious with the sarcasm of it all, but very good overall. I've always wondered exactly what people meant by "traditional marriage." It's sort of a moving target. People throw up other words like "Biblical marriage" or "faith-based marriage," but that's really just another place-holder, like "Intelligent Designer" or "God" is for "we don't yet know how this happened." I mean, it would seem to me that polygamy was allowed for quite a few people in the Bible, so long as you were wealthy enough...and there were all sorts of bride-prices, dowries, sacrifices, and feasts that had to go on. I don't see too many people selling slaves along with their daughters, but...maybe that's just me. I also don't see too many Christians basing their marriages off of the Talmudic traditions, but, I guess as much as they like to claim we are a Judeo-Christian nation, there aren't too many Judeo-Christians out there.
The problem is even worse if we try to take an archeological perspective of what a "traditional marriage" would be. It'd be like gathering together a human, sheep, pig, cat, dog, rabbit, horse, ox, bear, dolphin, and mouse and asking "which one is the mammal?" Oh, you can pick one and say it's your favorite, but, as you can maybe guess, the answer's not quite right. So, really, all we have again is a group of people who want everyone else to follow their favorite system, to make everyone adhere to their laws. Now, in a federal sense, an certain bit of this is understood - you obey the traffic laws, giving up some bit of your own freedom, to enjoy the benefit of a mass transportation system. When you get married, there are certain legalities you have to get through, and you pay a tax to enjoy some benefits of the state. Okay, that's fine. But when a particular group, religious or otherwise, wants to legalize its own way of living, and only its own way, there's a bit of a problem. Imagine, if you are Christian, that a Jewish group wants to mandate that only Kosher food can be eaten from now on. Goodbye cheeseburgers, shrimp, and a helluva lot more. They're just protecting the sanctity of food preparation, and doing it in a very tradition-minded way. Do you have a problem with it? God decreed it, lest you forget as you munch on those shrimp cocktails. Now, Paul did indeed say it was okay to break Kosher, but also note that he said you shouldn't do it if it would offend those with whom you were dining. Well, well, if it's going to offend some of the more tradition-minded Jews, you'd probably better stop.
Or imagine if a Muslim group wanted to U.S. to adhere to Sharia law. Would you have a problem with it? What if, just imagine, they were the majority in this country? Would you have a problem with it then? Would you feel that your rights as a group of people are being trampled on? That some religious group is forcing their view of things onto the public through legislation?
There is a solution, though. It's not a perfect one - few are. It's cobbled together and frail, sometimes barely hanging on. It offends a great deal of people, but it allows society to work, however hobbling it may go. The solution is brilliantly simple - no religion, no philosophy, no particular group, even the majority, gets special treatment or free reign in legislation. You are free to practice your own religion, or lack thereof. However, just the same, I am free to practice my own, however different they may be. So long as they do not interfere with each others private rights, there is no problem (I can't kill you because my god told me to. I can refuse to eat cheeseburgers though). So, why don't we take a hint from the Constitution, you police your own religious community, I'll eat some shrimp scampi, and we extend the right of marriage to everyone, regardless of what particular bits of flesh they possess where (legislate only the minimum necessary - need for consent, proof of stability and support if needed, minimum age requirement, and maximum relatedness if-you-so-desire), and we all go home happy.
That's just my two-cents anyway.
Monday, September 14, 2009
A few quickies for today, just for the chuckles of it all.