Tag Archives: Christianity

Biblical Marriage Explained

In this YouTube clip, “America’s Best Christian” explains biblical marriage.

When I first saw the title, I assumed America’s best Christian was Newt Gingrich. No idea why.

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Yoga: Good Exercise or the Gateway to Hell?

A couple articles, one recent, one older, about religious authorities’ concerns about the growing popularity of yoga. Here are some quotes. I’ve replaced some words. See if you can tell which ones concern Muslims and which ones concern Christians.

During the class I sat in on, yoga’s Hindu roots were mentioned, albeit briefly. A spiritual experience was on offer for those who wanted it.

This is the point where some [religious people] in [given country] worry about yoga. They think it is encroaching on their way of life.

One [Christian/Muslim] student told me that she combined yoga techniques with prayers. That concerns some [Muslim/Christian] experts.

[Religious people] who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-[religion], spiritually polyglot” reality.

When [religious people] practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their [religious] commitments and their embrace of yoga.

We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow [religious figure] in the way of faithfulness.

The ruling is not legally binding but many of [given country’s][religious people] abide by [such rulings].

Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the [religious] understanding. [Religious people] are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.

“[Religion] is a complete way of life. [Religion] is able to cater to the needs of [Christians/Muslims]; spiritual needs, intellectual needs and other needs, material needs. So there is no need to bring in elements from outside,” he added.

I’m going to throw in a third piece for fun. A blog I found while searching.

I recently overheard several conservative [religious] ladies at my gym discussing Yoga. They have decided not to participate, having concluded that it smacks too closely to dangerous paganism for their personal comfort.

But wait, there’s more.

The [religious authorities] told [religious people] on Thursday that some aspects of yoga, Zen and other forms of Oriental meditation can “degenerate into a cult of the body” and are not a substitute for [religious] prayer.

A document issued by the [religious denomination’s guardian of orthodoxy], said genuine [religious] mysticism is not a question of technique and warned [religious people] not to confuse the pleasure derived from some forms of meditation with a relationship with God.

And an article from England, from 2007:

[Teacher], who lives in [town], added: “I explained to the [house of worship] that my yoga is a non-religious activity.
“Some types of adult yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation but it’s not a part of the religion and there is no dogma involved.
“This is a class for mums and children which has yoga-inspired moves – but as soon as I mentioned the word yoga the [house of worship] staff completely changed their attitude.”
[Religious authority] defended the decision, saying: “We are a [religious] organisation and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our [religious] ethos.
“Clearly yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as [religious people] don’t believe is the same as our ethos.
“If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there wouldn’t be a problem.
“But she’s called it yoga and therefore there is a dividing line we’re not prepared to cross.”
[The leader of the house of worship] said: “Any alternative philosophies or beliefs are offering a sham – and [here] we want people to have the real thing.
“The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga (even to toddlers) must subscribe to the philosophy.
“As [religious people] we believe that this philosophy is false and not something we wish to encourage.
“Yoga may appear harmless or even beneficial, but it is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques – whereas the only true way to wholeness is by [religion-specific thing].”

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More On Exporting Religious Hatred

The New York Times has a story about the American Christian evangelicals whose anti-homosexual teachings spurred a proposed law in Uganda that called for the execution of homosexuals.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

Oh, they were just fine with it until the American public started making a fuss about it.
Good for the New York Times. You can read the rest of the article there.

But it’s not just these fringe weirdos. Friendly old evangelical Rick Warren was on board with the Uganda death penalty for homosexuality law, too.

Pastor Rick Warren — whom President Obama controversially chose to deliver the invocation at his inauguration — is now refusing to condemn Bahati’s bill, which has been endorsed by Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa. Ssempa has been welcomed by Warren’s family and made appearances at his church. Newsweek reports that although Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa’s views, he won’t come out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.

On Meet the Press yesterday, Warren reiterated, “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.” He has, however, said that abortion is a “holocaust” and pushed for the passage of California’s Prop. 8.

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Round-Up of Disheartening Stories

Found all of these of Huffington Post, which I don’t usually link to, but since there was such a big batch of them, all the links are to HuffPo.

1. The Ku Klux Klan will hold a rally right before a University of Mississippi football game. This is in protest of the university chancellor’s decision to prevent the band from playing, “From Dixie with Love,” because the fans have a habit of chanting “the south will rise again” when it is played.

The KKK is the US’s longest-running hate group, formed by sore losers immediately after the Civil War. And they’re still active today, beating and shooting folks, and encouraging their followers to attend today’s “tea parties.”

2. A Vatican researcher, working “without the support of the Vatican,” insists she can prove that the shroud of Turin is really truly Jesus Christ’s death wrapping.

3. There’s a new outlandish billboard, this time equating President Obama with a turban-wearing jihadist. Side note: the billboard meister claims that the words “We are a christian nation” appear in the constitution.

4. Congressman Peter King, who has been a personal friend of, a collaborator with, and spokesman for Irish Republican Army terrorists and who nevertheless insists that only Muslims are terrorists, wants our lawmakers to pass a resolution honoring Christmas. Why did he bother?

I would not have brought this resolution if they hadn’t brought the Ramadan and the Diwali resolutions.

Because congress acknowledged religious diversity in the United States!

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Better Know a Christian Terrorist Group

Middle East Online has a good piece on the Lord’s Resistance Army, and not coincidentally Middle East Online is the only news source that consistently refers to the group as a Christian terrorist group.

UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council Tuesday “strongly condemned” the ongoing attacks and acts of violence of Uganda’s Christian extremist rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

“The (15) members of the Security Council strongly condemned the continued and recently increasing attacks carried out by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic and Sudan,” it said.

The attacks “have resulted in the death, abduction and displacement of thousands of civilians,” said Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, who this month holds the council’s rotating presidency.

The LRA guerrilla group, whose chief Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court, first appeared in northern Uganga in 1988 and has since expanded into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and south Sudan.

Earlier this year in south Sudan, LRA men attacked several food aid distribution stations, killed hundreds of civilians and kidnapped children for use as soldiers, forcing thousands of people into Western Equatoria.

The extremist group was founded by a former Catholic altar boy from northern Uganda, who uses biblical references to explain why it is necessary to kill people.

His Christian extremist group is notorious for abducting thousands of children, forcing them to become either soldiers for his radical views or sex slaves.

The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

He is described as a self-styled prophet who believes in Jesus, son of God.

One of Kony’s aides, Moses, was quoted as saying: “Kony is a messenger from God! We follow the commands of the Holy Spirit!”

Moses continues to explain Kony’s reasoning: “If someone has done something bad to you, you have to kill them!”

“Go and read in Matthew, chapter what and what, it is stated that if your right hand causes trouble, cut if off! It is there in the Bible!”

“He taught us how to pray,” one of Kony’s wives said. He had named was of his sons George Bush. And like the former US president, he also claims to receive personal visions from God.

In an interview with Vincent Otti, who was LRA second in command at the time, the Christian fanatic was asked about the group’s name and its ideal system of government.

Otti’s response was: “Lord’s Resistance Army is just the name of the movement, because we are fighting in the name of God. God is the one helping us in the bush. That’s why we created this name, Lord’s Resistance Army. And people always ask us, are we fighting for the [biblical] Ten Commandments of God. That is true – because the Ten Commandments of God is the constitution that God has given to the people of the world.”

Kony uses passages from the Pentateuch to justify mutilation and murder.

LRA fighters achieved notoriety by turning on the Acholis they claimed to represent, hacking off lips, ears and noses, killing thousands and abducting more than 20,000 civilians, mostly children.

The children who have been abducted were often forced to kill their own parents so they have no way back.

People who were abducted into Kony’s forces and later escaped describe him as a crazed religious leader.

Fun stuff. Indubitably the LRA is a terrorist group founded on Biblical teachings, therefore a Christian or Christianist terrorist group.

The LRA has killed more people than many other terrorist groups, yet few Americans or Europeans have ever heard of it.

But of course. Who ever heard of Christian terror group? Or they don’t really count as Christians, or they’re not true Christians, and there’s no need for any Christians anywhere to denounce them because they aren’t real Christians, ad infinitum.

And of course if this were a Muslim group, there would never be a news article about them without the words “Muslim” and “terrorist.” Ipso facto.

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Strange Bedfellows

It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last, but it’s always interesting to see intolerant Christian hardliners team up with intolerant Muslim hardliners.

From the Truth Wins Out blog:

The Liberty Counsel — the lawsuit-friendly organization that helps Exodus International and other Christian Rightists sue defenders of religious freedom — is defending the new president of the United Nations General Assembly, former Libyan Foreign Minister Ali Abdussalam Treki, who on Sept. 15 disagreed with a 2008 General Assembly statement by 66 nations urging decriminalization of homosexuality.

According to PrideSource, Treki said: “As a Muslim, I am not in favor of that. I believe it is not accepted by the majority of countries (and) it is not really acceptable by our religion, our tradition.”

In an Oct. 24 statement to American Family Association’s OneNewsNow propaganda service, Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel rose to defend Treki, who rose to his position at the U.N. through the sponsorship of Libya’s longtime terror mastermind Muammar al-Qaddafi. Barber said Treki’s views on criminalization were in tune with much of the world.

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Blog Recommend

Loonwatch.com is exactly the blog I sometimes daydream about creating if I won several million dollars and quit my job. But now I don’t have to, because Loonwatch.com already exists.

The people behind Loonwatch do exhaustive, point-by-point takedowns of what the islamophobes are saying. It’s really impressive.

I highly recommend this post about Islam’s view on apostasy in comparison with Christianity’s: Fathima Rifqa Bary Needs to Read Her Bible; Final Word on Islam and Apostasy.

Oh wait, *smacks forehead*, I remember now where those verses are from. Ahh yes, they are from the Bible (Deuteronomy, 13:6-10). There are of course many other Biblical verses in the same vein, such as 2 Chronicles 15:13 which reads: “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”

Oopsie doopsie!

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to randomly quote someone else’s scripture or medieval texts without any context as a proof to demonize a people or to fear monger.

Yes, the majority “classical” and “traditional” opinion codified hundreds of years ago was indeed that apostates from Islam should be killed. However, such views are abundantly present in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well, yet Jews and Christians have over the course of time reanalyzed their canonical texts and come to different understandings today.

Before the Great War, the Ottoman Empire united Muslim lands under one symbolic leadership. (Perhaps an oversimplification but it suffices for our discussion here.) It is interesting to note that the Ottoman government eventually stopped enforcing the punishment for apostasy and finally abolished it altogether in 1844, more than one hundred and sixty years ago.

The main argument used by Islamophobes is that Islam as a religion itself advocates the death penalty for apostates, and therefore it is the religion itself–not the interpretation of it–that is the problem, an unusually obtuse and altogether unhelpful assertion. Furthermore, some of them argue, Muslims must abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran. In other words, the Islamophobes posit that the only possible way for Muslims to become “civilized” is to view the Quran as any other text, deleting what they dislike from it and adding whatever they wish to it–or as Daniel Pipes puts it: to make it “defunct.”

The Quran is an open text, because it generally refrains from specifics. In fact, names are almost never used in it, in order that its verses have not only a specific meaning but also a more general import. For example, a verse may have been revealed to placate the Islamic prophet Muhammad during a particularly difficult time in his struggle; so even though the verse will have a specific reason for revelation (to one particular man in one specific situation), it can also be used in a general context: Muslims will use that same verse when they themselves are going through tough times.

Because of this unique structure of the Quranic text, what one gets out of it depends a lot on the reader, who tends to inject into verses his own background and biases, for better or for worse. Having said that, it seems to the author that an unbiased and neutral reading validates the argument of the reform-minded Muslims: nowhere in the Quran does it clearly and definitively say one must kill apostates. In fact, it seems to say the exact opposite.

If Muslims can understand it in that way, why this continual insistence by the Islamophobes that the Muslims “must” abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran? (Again, it is in order to set up a situation whereby Muslims simply cannot fulfill the requirements to be accepted into society, which is exactly what the Islamophobes desire.)

Ms. Fathima Rifqa Bary was incorrect: unlike the Bible, the Quran does not at all say to kill apostates if they choose to leave Islam. Rather, it says the exact opposite. The Quran declares emphatically:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth is distinct from error!” (Quran, 2:256)
Almost every Muslim knows this verse by heart. It categorically closes the door to religious compulsion, and is used by reform-minded Muslims to promote freedom of religion and the idea that the people have a right to follow whatever religion they so choose. Because “truth is distinct from error,” people should be able to discern it for themselves without having to be forced.

So there are clear and explicit verses of the Quran that reform-minded Muslims naturally understand to mean that freedom of religion must be extended to all, and that compulsion into Islam is not to be tolerated.

Mind you, I’m just quoting little bits. The whole post has much more information.

Enter the Hadiths. For those who don’t know, the Hadiths are a body of collection of the prophet Muhammad’s sayings or traditions. In other words, the Quran is considered by Muslims to be the word of God, and the Hadiths are the words of their prophet. Unlike the Quran however, Muslims do not believe that all of the Hadiths are authentic. Rather, many of them are apocryphal and therefore rejected. In other words, if some Islamophobe claims that such-and-such Hadith exists, be aware of the fact that many of them are rejected by Muslims. The Hadiths do not occupy the same rank as the Quran, but are rather a secondary source open to criticism.

In this huge body of collection, we find the Hadith that Islamophobes rely on as their trump card in this debate, which reads as follows: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” At first glance, that seems pretty clear and unambiguous but has the Islamophobe proven his case? Well, let’s take into consideration that the Bible has many seemingly clear and unambiguous verses which call to kill apostates, yet we never assume that Christians today believe this, nor do we insist that Christianity itself demands it.

Let’s be clear here: we’re not trying to bash Christianity at all. What we are saying however is that if we extend the common courtesy to Christians that they can contextualize such verses in the Bible, then why do we not extend the same courtesy to the Muslims when it comes to the Hadiths? Keep in mind also that Muslims believe that their Bible–so to speak–is the Quran and not the Hadiths. In other words, if Christianity’s primary source seems to say that apostates are to be killed, then why do we not accept any explanation from Muslims about their secondary source? (Hint: Islamophobia is the answer!) It is this terrible double standard that bothers Muslims and those who believe in religious tolerance.

Reformists believe it was in this particular situation that the Hadiths about killing “apostates” who “leave the community” and “wage war against God and His Messenger” were said. “Leaving the community” is a reference to leaving the community of Medina to join the invaders. Therefore, they reason, it was not merely “peaceful apostasy” which is to be punished, but rather high treason, i.e. trying to destroy the Islamic state’s army. It was a specific plot of the unbelievers to convert to Islam in order to mass apostatize and defect to the pagan side to destroy the Muslims.

One can see then how apostasy and defection are linked; back then, there was a pagan army and a Muslim army. If you were pagan, you fought for the pagan army. If you were Muslim, you fought for the Muslim army. If you converted from one to the other, then you’d likely abandon one army and defect to the other. Hence the phrase “the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the community.”

In other words, the Zanadiqa being referred to here were not “peaceful apostates” who simply changed their mind, but rather they were guilty of high treason, causing a civil war, instigating a rebellion in Egypt, and ultimately killing the Caliph. Indeed, they were similar to the group of people who had pretended to convert to Islam in order to apostatize during the thick of things (i.e. in the battle between Medina and Mecca). The bottom line then is that even the Hadith that the Islamophobes rely upon can be used as a proof that only those apostates who wage war against the state are to be killed.

We understand it perfectly well with classical Christian texts. Let’s look at the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Christian scholars in history. The Vatican considers him as “the model teacher” for those pursuing priesthood.

The Summa Theologica, a book written by St. Thomas Aquinas, is considered one of the best summaries of Catholic doctrine to this day, and continues to be relied upon. In other words, here we have a text that is certainly more central to the Catholic faith than the Reliance of the Traveler is to Muslims. Well, let’s take a look-see into what the Summa Theologica says about apostasy; the first part talks about how Jews are apostates and thus worse than regular disbelievers, and the second part talks about how apostates ought to be compelled by the sword to Christianity:

Then a quote follows. I’m not quoting the quoted quotes. How messy would that look? The important thing is that Loonwatch.com is one-stop shopping for refuting the arguments of Islamophobic loons.

His statement also betrays a superficial understanding of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The four schools are not defined by their final rulings or verdicts, but rather based on their methodology (Usul). Within a school itself, all sorts of conflicting opinions can be found, since a school is defined not by a ruling but by the methodology one uses to arrive at such a ruling. In other words, contemporary Muslims can still follow the same methodology and arrive at different conclusions, without betraying the school of thought itself. Many followers of the four schools have done so with regard to the issue of apostasy.

So the fact that a person follows a school of jurisprudence does not at all mean that he must commit himself to one particular ruling. Furthermore, many Muslims do not follow a school of jurisprudence at all, with still others claiming that it is wrong to follow the four schools whatsoever. Bottom line: there are diverse opinions on this matter, and to pigeonhole Muslims into a particular belief is wrong. It is just wrong to speak on behalf of Muslims; let them speak for themselves!

Of course, Spencer quotes an Islamic scholar who lived hundreds of years ago as a proof. Sorry, but that’s not a proof to Muslims, nor is it binding. Whilst moderate Muslims respect Imam al-Qurtubi like Catholics respect St. Thomas Aquinas, they don’t believe his words are divine and simply disagree with them. That is in actuality the bulk of Spencer’s argument, since the verse itself is not at all “direct proof” of anything!

In other words, neither the ultraconservative Muslims nor the Islamophobes can make their case, i.e. that the Quran says to kill apostates, without having to get rid of certain Quranic verses, those that are abundantly clear that religious compulsion is forbidden. This in actuality shows the strength of the reformist view, namely that if one looks at the Quran as a whole, it mandates religious freedom.

What seems apparent is that Fathima’s parents never threatened to kill her; rather, she was brainwashed by some Christian extremists (who by the way look down on the Christian mainstream) into thinking that Islam itself–and the Quran in particular–mandates death for apostates. Notice in her emotional interview that she clearly was of the view that: the Quran mandates it, ergo religious Muslims believe in it. This logic is faulty and problematic.

The Islamophobes have jumped on this opportunity to spread fear and hate, insisting that Islam is intrinsically culpable, a pagan and heathen religion incompatible with those who love Christ.

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