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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

http://news-service.stanford.edu   Karen ArmstrongKaren Armstrong discusses in her Ted presentation the three Abrahamic religions, she is a well educated woman and although she is referring mostly to fundamental extremists I can’t help but apply it to the whole which means that I only agree in part with Armstrong’s points. She comments that compassion is the golden rule of all religions and that only once this is accepted and put into practice does someone truly understand God & the divine. However, there has been an abuse; those terrorists that use the Koran to commit murder and those that ignore the word of Jesus to judge others and commit uncompassionate acts. The conflict is where ego becomes more important than the golden rule of compassion and religion simply becomes a fault line. I agree with this point that people tend to use the surface differences to create a them and us, whether this is religion, colour or football teams there will always be these created divisions. I should not attack religion for the result of some people creating hate or lack of concern for others because of these insignificant differences, if I believe that those fundamental believers (not extremists, just fundamentalists) do show compassion in their everyday lives. Fundamental believers are those that believe in their religion and act in accordance.

So do I believe that fundamental believers show compassion in their everyday lives? Well, no. The evidence suggests that this is not true. Religion does not always live within evidence; I do however happen to live there. I could list a lot of examples here but let me start with just a few. Stem cell research in America could not be possible because religious groups consider 150 cells that could possibly, with no certainty, become a human more important, worth more protection than killing an alive house fly with 100,000 cells (Sam Harris). In Pakistani a sister can be sentenced by law to gang rape for a brother’s crime (Christopher Hitchens). There is a current attack on science that will see many children not taught about evolution because it steps on the grounds of the church (Richard Dawkins). These three examples are not the result of compassion, the first would deny people help from disease, the second is just wrong and the third lacks the rules that compassion allows us to understand others knowledge. I am not saying that some religious people are not governed by compassionate acts, still you cannot pick and choose what examples you’d like to keep hidden and others you would like to demonstrate. If “Religion is compassionate” is a true statement, where all evidence suggests that it is then it goes without saying that if one piece of evidence suggests that it is not, the whole statement becomes untrue. And these examples are not fundamental extremists, they are the norm.

Armstrong commented on her idea for a charter for compassion, where she would get popular religious leaders to sign up and it would help promote compassion within religious settings. As an atheist and God damm proud of it, I find it particularly disgusting that we have to remind religious people to be compassionate and stop causing trouble for the rest of us. I understand the point that is being made, the extremists that have taken over religion are seen as the enemy but that is not true anymore. People do all sorts of crazy stuff in the name of religion and it should never be accepted. As if people need to be taught how to read scripture correctly, as Armstrong suggests, presents a great worry – either they are simply using it for their own ends in which case they will ignore anything a rational person says or they have spent all this time missing the whole point of their own religion. I find this approach a little naive still there is always one choice that people have, people have a choice not to believe in religion at all. If you don’t like what people of the same faith are doing, then you can always leave it no one should ever force you to stay with a faith. If they do, it’s not about faith anymore it’s just about people trying to control other people. Armstrong talks with passion and I do respect her approach, even if I don’t always agree.

Another newspaper article has the same effect on me, where Armstrong comments on the pope’s ill timed statements directed towards Islam, it divides my opinion on her. To start with describing current anti-Islamic feelings in the west based on a historical perspective being that of the last thousand years is a wrong approach to make. I’m not involved in many conversations where such a detailed history is ever discussed and to be fair although there has been a media dominated frenzy in recent years it is not why people can come to dislike Islam. I dislike Islam, Christianity and Judaism, just to be fair I will say that now so this is not seen as an attack just on Islam, they are all equally distasteful. I do agree with Armstrong when she says that the Catholic Church should not judge the position of the Jihad since they are the ones that have caused countless murders of their own, at a much larger scale than Islam. Let’s not forget the role they took of condoms in Africa, they are committing genocide. Still getting back to Armstrong, there are two quotes that I found most interesting in her article, they are:

“But the old myth of Islam as a chronically violent faith persists, and surfaces at the most inappropriate moments.” & “They will convince more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic and engaged in a new crusade.”

Of course, Armstrong here is maintaining her perspective that we should not go back to anti-Islamic thoughts and we should not blame violence on Islam. Let me say that this is a fantastic view on what Islam should be like but it’s not like that, the Islam of the world does not only exist in the Koran. The notion of a violent faith does persists, I could just talk about terrorists but that would mean your thoughts are moved away from Islam in its everyday sense, I don’t want to do that, I want examples you can’t dismiss as the acts of a few. A Muslim cleric claimed that the polio vaccine was a plot against them and this resulted in 2005 in another outbreak and the deaths of children. This is not violent but it still it’s important that children are being affected, there is also abuse of children going on in madrassas and mosques within the EU because they are seen as sensitive areas for police and social workers to enter. Ok so this leads me to the Dutch cartoons, these cartoons 3 of which were never made by the Dutch artists rather an Islamic propaganda organization caused a man in London to dress as a suicide bombing during the protests (the cartoons were never published in the UK), Was this an acceptance of a young Muslim man that violence and Islamic protest went hand in hand? How about the 139 people that died in Danish embassies? Is this a result of a peaceful religion? Sam Harris wrote that most of the crime committed in France was done by Muslim immigrants. These are the things that I hear about and there are lots more examples too, so why does Islam to me seem like a violent religion? Well for these reasons because the arguments are presented to me like so. In this sense I don’t need to understand a historical perspective or even the Koran in order to understand Islam. Still these are real perceptions of what is going on. While there is argument that it is inappropriate for the pope to make these comments, it’s never inappropriate to demand these issues be dealt with before any further discussion.

As I said I reject all religion so this is not me picking out one religion. Armstrong comments that since the 9/11 attacks on New York there has been an increase in unconscious prejudice towards Islam, this is true but at the end of the day every Muslim has to be blamed for this. I will tell you why, it’s because there is a sense that fundamentalist are the ones to blame, this is not the case. It is the moderate believers that are the origins for fundamentalists, if there were not moderates then there would be no fundamentalists. Most holy books are bases of violence that is how they have survived all this time, it’s the moderate approach that allows for the immoderate to use the process. Let’s go back to the idea of religion being used for political means and the case of the cleric stopping the polio vaccine. If we assume that this was just a political move, how did the cleric get support and power to perform these political acts? The answer can only be that religion, even those that of moderate religion supported this cleric because they thought the cleric being closer to God & performing his will and the respect that religion teaches about its own religious teachers. If those two things were not in place the power of one man would have been significantly reduced. Moderate religious people cause more harm than fundamentalists do, that is true across all Abrahamic religions. Look at priests and there abuse of children within the Catholic Church, they were able to do this because people gave priests the power and in turn disempowered themselves & their children. So while I accept that most religious people can be kind and the situation is far more complex than I’m presenting here, my perceptions are valid.

The west has always been Islamophobic, still at least in the UK people have been religion’o’phobic for a long while. Consider the difference between George Bush and Tony Blair, George Bush has tried to move away from religious wars against people to just wars against evil regimes. Religious statements have tip toed into Bush’s comments quite often. Tony Blair had to wait until he left office until he came out about his conversion to Catholicism, the British are suspect of religion and so they should be. Still for the average person on the street in the UK after the recent London suicide bombings they are more phobic than perhaps they were before because all they see is the death Islam can cause. This might be a natural reaction, even if it is not a correct one and it will repair itself with time. If you were to ask me I am more scared if Islamic countries or the USA on the bases of its religious intent directing its action, I would have to be honest and say I am more scared of the Christian USA than any Islamic countries. Both however, are justifiable as violent religions. I don’t agree with Armstrong on many things.

Newspaper article : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/sep/18/religion.catholicism

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Marcus Brigstocke audio commentary is not only a funny look at the role of religion in his life but it also contains some of the deeper issues. Of course, a funny look is always a better start than a serious one.

This is really is the general British view of religion – it has the attitude of Dawkins and Hitchens about the concept of a children being not of any religion. Also how religion and education should be two different things, schools should be there to simply teach rather than brain wash and reinforce the belief in an overlord with the only reason because religious leaders said so!

Religion should never receive special treatment, to say that you are not allowed talk about its imperfections only serves to weaken the idea of religion rather than strengthen it. It should be worrying that religious people are more worried about defending a faith rather than living the ‘moderate’ & kind ideas that they claim make up faith. Claiming that religion gives them morality that can’t be found anywhere else, is a lie.

It really is just a start…

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