April 30, 2010
(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)
In the world of the Abrahamic religious traditions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), religious fundamentalism and hypersensitivity seems to be getting worse, with American-style creationist ideas (though not of the young-Earth variety) even gaining ground in the Middle East.
As an example of religious sensitivities, there was the case of a US military sniper in Iraq using a Koran for target practice. This was undoubtedly a rude act done by a stupid person but it led to an equally stupid overreaction by Muslims, who became incensed because the Koran is a 'holy' book. As a result, the US military had to make a groveling apology once the incident became public, even kissing a copy of the Koran and calling the soldier's actions 'criminal'. There were even protests that resulted in the deaths of three people. All this over nothing more than shooting a book. As someone who loves books, I find the wanton destruction of books offensive in general but I am not going to riot over it and I recognize the right of people to do what they want with the books they own.
Muslim theologians had to add their two cents worth, with the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq issuing a statement.
"As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God's holy book, the Constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity," the groups statement said, "they condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation's agenda and holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this violation and reminds everyone that God preserves his book and he [God] is a great avenger."
If god is a 'great avenger' who 'preserves his book' with so much care, then why don't they let god decide what action to take against those who use it for target practice? If it was such a gross provocation, surely god could have struck the soldier dead or at least given him boils? The fact that the soldier is fine must mean that god does not care that the Koran was shot up.
Some schools in Somalia have been forbidden to ring bells to signal the end of class, because bells sound Christian. One should not be surprised at such silliness when one hears that Muslims around the world protested the publication of cartoons showing Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. How absurdly sensitive can you get when mere cartoons can arouse protest like these?
A cleric in Iran blamed the recent earthquakes on women wearing revealing clothes and behaving promiscuously. That, of course, explains why earthquakes occur on an almost daily basis in the US and Europe. Not to be outdone in the world of religious absurdities, a Jewish rabbi said that hurricane Katrina was God's vengeance for the Israeli pullout from Gaza. What, you don't see the connection? Me neither.
In Malaysia, Bibles referring to God as Allah were seized by the Malaysian government which claimed that "the word Allah is Islamic and that its use in Bibles could upset Muslims." When later a court ruled that non-Muslims could also use the word, the government appealed the verdict, resulting in violence. "Arson attacks then followed, mainly targeting churches, and wild boar's heads were placed at mosques. Pigs are considered unclean by Muslims and their presence would be taken as an insult."
Two Muslim journalists in Malaysia, investigating reports that Muslims were being converted to Christianity, attended a Catholic mass, took communion, and then spat out the wafers. (I am not sure why they did the spitting part. Did they fear that if the ate it they might have accidentally become Christian, and thus risked being killed which is the punishment for apostasy in parts of the Islamic world?) Naturally, this created a tizzy in the Catholic Church hierarchy which actually believes that the wafers become the body of Jesus as a result of a ritual. Riots and Muslim-Catholic conflicts ensued. Oddly enough, William Donohue of the US Catholic League or, as I prefer to refer to him, the head of the Church of POOP (Perpetual Outrage to Obtain Publicity), did not seize this opportunity to whine about Catholics being victimized. Then there were Catholics who were upset over a crucifix artwork that seemed (to their sex-obsessed eyes) to display Jesus's genitalia.
We also have Christians in Italy who were angry at the inclusion of a mosque in a nativity scene. And then we had Christians in the US throwing a fit because of the decision to remove crosses from an Army chapel in order to create a neutral environment for all religions to pray in, as required by US military regulations.
The Irish have taken a great step backward into medieval times by actually passing blasphemy laws, so that now "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion" is liable to fines of up to 22,000 euros. Jesus and Mo have something to say about it.
And there is the high school in Missouri that banned their band's shirt that played on the evolution theme because the shirt upset people who dislike evolution.
Meanwhile that rich storehouse of unremitting goofiness known as Conservapedia has launched a project to rectify what they see as 'liberal bias' in the Bible! Not satisfied with insisting that science conform to the Bible, they now want the Bible to conform to their ideology. What a fun project!
Don't religious people realize how silly all this makes them look?
POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert on the Conservapedia revisions to the Bible
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