Category Archives: Religion

Why Islam Cannot Change

islam-cannot-be-softenedIslam cannot change because of an internal quirk that prevents it.

Why does Islam resist change and always revert to its barbaric, bloody, violent nature? The answer is because it has no choice.

Other faiths

Jews do not read the Bible as if it were literally true and in any case, the Bible is only one part of the foundation of their faith. The Torah, the body of literature at its centre, contains many other documents and traditions that inform Judaism. It is quite possible to be a Jew and at the same time an atheist. Many great Jewish thinkers and scientists, notably Albert Einstein, have been exactly that.

Practising Jews are expected to read the Bible but to make their own peace with God; and furthermore there is no promise of extra-terrestrial reward or punishment in Judaism. The reward for a life lived well is the return of the Promised Land — Israel.

This, together with their tiny numbers and the historic and ongoing persecution they have suffered, has tended to make them very tolerant, except in matters of the land of Israel itself. For example, while lapidation remains a punishment specified in the Jewish Bible, the Christian Old Testament, it has not been carried out for over 2000 years, as far as we know.

Israel, is a democratic secular state famously friendly towards its gay and transgender populations, despite the scriptural injunctions placed against them. Women — though still reviled by Orthodox Jews — are respected by mainstream Judaism and are regarded as fully equal to men within the State of Israel.

One of the reasons

Judaism is reasonable because there are contradictions in Scripture. It is impossible to equally believe everything this says when it directly contradicts itself, as well as observable reality. How could Jahweh possibly have created the sun three days after the Earth? Surely a day is a measure of solar time? Oy vey, it makes no sense.

The result of this is that most mainstream Jews see Scripture as a guide rather than as a rigid rule-book. This has tended to soften their attitudes. Although there are extremist fundamentalists who do not take this view, they are a minority and have no real power. Mainstream Judaism is inclusive, tolerant and receptive to new ideas.

Let’s look at Christianity now before considering Islam. Continue reading Why Islam Cannot Change

Evolution observed in trout

evolution-trout-salmo-truttaYou have to be brain-dead to deny the fact of Evolution these days. Well, these last 150 years actually… Apparently though, at least 40% of USians (other Americans are smarter), are indeed just so cerebrally demised. Hopped the neurological twig as it were. Zombified the gray matter. Deceased the thinking apparatus.

Now why would we worry? These are sister-shagging Bible belt rednecks who still think the South actually won the Civil War, aren’t they? ‘Oh no man we just kinda took a time out for a mint juleps n some grits n shit them gaddamn Yankees done called time on us!’ So who cares what they think?

Well the trouble is, they get to elect the Preseedunt of the Yewnited States (of America, not Mexico), and unfortunately, given the performance of some of the incumbents, that is the most powerful office in the world. I mean they elected Dubbya. (Well they didn’t really, but he still got the job.) And there is a risk they might elect another scion of the Terminally Religionard House of Bush next year.

‘Howdee do Jebby boy! Done shot any coons lately? I do mean raccoons now, y’all. Maybe one o them Afreecan Geeraffes? Or a Liahn?’ Continue reading Evolution observed in trout

Why Islam must embrace Secularism

word-cloud-secularismThe only way for the Muslim community, insofar as it can be referred to by such a homogeneous term, to resolve the problems caused by the rise of Islamic extremism and the predictable reaction to it, is at once to accept secularism and to reject shari’aa and the primacy of Islam over other cults.

The issue is not between a Christian majority and a Muslim minority, it is between a society founded on democratic principles and reason, an arch crowned by the keystone that we can change the laws that govern us by electoral mandate, and a religious minority that refuses to accept this, and instead insists that no part of the law, as expressed through shari’aa — because it is ‘god’s’ law — can ever be altered, even in one word.

As a lifelong liberal, inclusionist, respecter and promoter of minority and other human rights, I am thoroughly weary of the complaint of those who consider that our secular democracy does not do enough for them, while themselves refusing to recognise that all religions, whatever their individual merits and demerits, within a multicultural environment, must defer to secular democracy and secular law. Continue reading Why Islam must embrace Secularism

We live in a world of terror.

world-of-terrorTerror comes in many forms. There is state terror; organised terror which is not state-promoted (NGO terror if you like); and individual acts of terror which are nevertheless encouraged by religion. All of these have one end: to reinforce the patriarchy’s grip on society and they are almost all sanctioned by religion. While a half-century ago, Communist terror was a problem, with the collapse of the Soviet Union that died away: nearly all terror, in every form, present in the world today, is inspired by religion.

Individual acts of terror are where one or a small number of individuals, usually from a majority of some kind, kill, maim, beat, insult, deny service to or otherwise harm persons of another group in order to intimidate them. A good example would be violence against LGBT people. This is frequently a spontaneous act of terror by private individuals with little or no coordination. Yet it causes the deaths of hundreds of transgender women every year. We see the same in beatings of minority races, persons of colour and those who dare to speak out for freedom.

Most of this terror is encouraged by the rantings of deluded religious demagogues preaching hate against gays, trans people, blacks, Jews, women, you name it. What are the recent atrocities carried out in France but religious terror designed to suppress legitimate criticism of Islam? We saw it in Charleston but lately. We see it in the killings of doctors assisting women to assert their rights over their bodies. It is pervasive and religion is the cause of it. Continue reading We live in a world of terror.

Probability? Get off my doorstep.

what-are-the-oddsI had an unusual experience last week here at Mission Control in Darkest France. I was door-stepped by Evangelists. We don’t see too many of those round here. They were working a nice formula; he was older and avuncular, she was young and very attractive. She was chosen to hook the guys, he because he was not threatening to women.

Having the kind of debate one has with Evangelists is a little harder in French than it is in English, at least for me, but I think I did OK. She seemed to like the bit about stardust…it’s nice and romantic.

He, however, brought up the ‘statistical probability of Earth being where it is etc etc’ canard. This is meant to show that the probability of Earth’s existence is so low that there must be magic, or as they would prefer, Divine Intervention, involved. Richard Dawkins debunks this in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ very nicely and I recommend it.

It’s a bogus argument because it proceeds in the wrong direction: we are already here. There is no probability about it. The actual probability of the Earth being where it is, is 1:1 or 100% because that is where it actually is.

But this got me to thinking and I did a little thought exercise. What would the probability of any one of us being born when and where we were? Continue reading Probability? Get off my doorstep.

The Goddess in The Philippines

goddess
Pic: Rod Fleming

The Goddess is a big deal in the Philippines and goddesses are out in strength there this week. The occasion is the closing rounds of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s volleyball tournament, held at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. Teams with names like De La Salle Lady Spikers and Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles, the Tigresses, the Lady Warriors and the Lady Bulldogs battle it out in front of huge, enthusiastic and thoroughly partisan crowds. And these girls aren’t kidding; this is serious stuff.

 The audience is mainly young – but everywhere in the Phils is mainly young. That’s only to be expected in a country where the population has increased by a factor of ten in fifty years. And there are as many men here as women. Filipinos are as passionate about volleyball as Scots are about football.

 This is hard sport, and women are seen as true warriors. Continue reading The Goddess in The Philippines

Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz

maajid-nawaz
Maajid Nawaz

Last week, Maajid Nawaz, a United Kingdom Liberal Democratic Party parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, became the centre of an attack from the Islamic fundamentalist right wing because he stood up for free speech. This is not, in itself, unusual; fundamentalists of any religious persuasion detest free speech. Nor is the chorus of death threats raised against Nawaz in any way uncommon from Islamic fanatics. However this case is important because it illustrates a divide which we must not only recognise but decide on which side we stand.

Nawaz’ crime? After taking part in a BBC debate in which two students were seen wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ tee-shirts, Nawaz tweeted the image, saying, “As a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.

For most people, that would not seem anything other than a reasonable point of view. Continue reading Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz

Word of the day: Religionard

word-day.smI’m going to do a series on words and phrases. Some of these will be ones I made up, others will be borrowed. I’ll tell you which ones those are. First up, one of mine :-

Religionard

Now before we go any further, let’s make something clear: I don’t hate all religious people, in fact I’m very fond of quite a few of them, even though we will never agree about this. I do have serious issues with some religious people, though, and that’s why I need a new word, to differentiate between the nice people I know who happen also to be religious, and the nutjob fruitcake headbangers whom I would cheerfully strangle if only I were allowed to, in order to get them to shut the fuck up. And stop them trying to interfere in my life, or anyone else’s, because of their absurd delusions. Continue reading Word of the day: Religionard

Pursuing the Goddess

aset-isis
Aset or Isis, Egyptian Queen of Heaven

Since 2002 I have been researching into something that I felt more than anything else. Something was nagging me. At the time I lived, as I do now, in France, and the signs of Goddess-worship were all around me. Cathedrals were full of images of the Goddess, the art replete with them. I could see this but I couldn’t define it, I couldn’t understand what it meant.

When I returned to Scotland I was a very busy man for a long time, building a house and trying to make ends meet from my freelance work, and also my own mother became ill and died, so the research went on hold. But it was always there in the back of my mind, and as I travelled round Scotland, that epicentre of dry Presbyterianism, I saw again and again the unmistakable mark of the Goddess all over the architecture and in the symbolism.

The Goddess was the principal focus of my Masters’ Degree research and even though I came a long way, I didn’t reach the answer I sought. When I came back to France I began to write, but in April of 2012 I had to stop. I was getting too confused. Continue reading Pursuing the Goddess

Faith Destroys Friendship

baha-ullah-bahai-faithA while ago I lost a friend. I don’t mean to say he died; he didn’t. I hope he is well, and has a long life. But we aren’t friends any more. It was because of his ‘faith’.

My friend, whom we shall just call David, was close. For many years he had been a pretty permanent part of my life. We operated a non-audited favour system; whenever he needed something, like help with his computer, or moving his stuff or, well, whatever, he called me and I helped. And if I needed some help, for example when I was building my house, David turned to. There was no imbalance, and while we often argued about matters of philosophy, we are both educated Scots; argument is in our blood.

So it came as a shock to me when he ended our friendship. Continue reading Faith Destroys Friendship