Archives For In The Name of God

In a half-dozen nations, tyrants who once ruled by fear and repression have been toppled, unleashing centuries-old sectarian rivalries and bloody struggles for power. Syria’s horrific civil war is spilling into Lebanon and threatening Jordan and Turkey, while Iraq has effectively devolved into three nations — one Shiite, one Sunni, one Kurdish. In the chaos, a particularly malignant form of radical Sunni Islam, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq….

Why is that rivalry raging now?
It has fueled conflict and repression since the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, but was ignited into a bonfire in 2003. That’s when the U.S. overthrew the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Hussein had long brutally suppressed Iraq’s Shiite majority, and his fall turned that power dynamic on its head. The new Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, denying them any real voice in the new national government.

SOURCE: The grand Shiite-Sunni struggle.

I recently read an article about how Islam needs its own Reformation. The Christian Reformation began with Martin Luther posted ninety-five complaints against the might Roman Catholic Church over 500 years ago. Up until then there were only a handful of dominant Christian churches around and RC was the major one. They told you what to believe, how much money they wanted, and where you go after you die. A lowly monk just didn’t buy that and visibly told them so.  That started the flames rolling and the many different belief systems sprouting out that differed with the Roman Catholic church.

Today I am told that we have over 14,000 different versions of Christ’s church each saying they are the ones who have it right. We went from a handful to thousands because of the Reformation. Isn’t that what is currently happening with Islam. Isn’t ISIS just another version of Islam that has sprouted off the Muslim root? In some ways we don’t need an Islamic Reformation but instead an Islamic consolidation. We need some overall authority to reign in all this centuries old fighting among the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and all the other out there.

As the article above says some think the we the U.S. is responsible for much of the latest fighting in Islam. Before we invaded Iraq its leader kept an iron grip on the various Muslim sects.  Since that overthrow the Middle East has exploded into one religious sect fighting another and hating all the other versions of spirituality.

We don’t need a Muslim Reformation, but just the opposite. While that is happening it would be nice is somehow we managed to get all the 14,000+ Christian sects to agree to some core beliefs but that seems almost as impossible as the former. At least we are not fighting and killing each other as our Muslim brothers are doing..

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I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the last of a six-part series from about a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

As the years go by I am convinced that the most abused thing in this world is the name of God. Everyday it seems that there is another person, group, religious sect that take God’s name in vain. The story below is about Jehovah’s Witnesses sect hiding, even from their own congregations, the child abusers among them.  Here are some of the words from the PBS Newshour report on this subject.  If you want to see the entire interview click on the source below:

2015-02-17_10-53-21Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders. But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny. And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way….

The case hinges on letters from Jehovah’s Witness leaders to the heads of local congregations. For almost 20 years, they have ordered them to send reports like this one for every known child abuser, to hide these cases from their congregations, and not to cooperate with law enforcement or the courts, unless instructed to….

They have refused judges’ orders to turn over these abuse reports, so no one knows how many cases like Conti’s are out there….

SOURCE:  Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?.

I must admit that I know very little about the Jehovah’s Witnesses other than the fact they often do door-to-door solicitation to get new members. I was not aware that they think the world outside their organization is controlled by Satan and that they alone are the only true followers of God.  For that reason they keep pretty much to themselves. They are for the most part probably told what to believe and what to do in almost every life circumstances. They simply do what their leaders tell them to do. But then again this same thing to one degree or another can be said for many other organizations who espouse to have all the answers about God.

There are so many today that mourn the shrinking number of those who claim to be religious. But who can blame the young person, both outside and even within these religious sects for having doubts. Just look around the world today and it is easy to see that most of the wars and killings are done in the name of God, all thousand versions of him!  How can that not be a turn-off for people beginning their life’s spiritual journey?

One of the best things about our country’s constitution and one of the worst things is the right to believe spiritually what you want to believe. It is definitely a double-edged blade. Yes, it does keep us from persecuting others who have different beliefs from us but it also allows the very groups that are being protected to strike out against everyone else. It protects us from the abusers but also protects the abusers.

There are so many different versions of God around today it would seem almost impossible for a young person not to be turned off by the totally different views of God. I have my own personal beliefs about God but I am not going to try to force those beliefs on you.  If only all religious institutions would agree to coexist with each other the world would be a much better place…

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Evangelicals and the NRA

February 12, 2015

I think everyone knows that a significant part of the NRA are evangelical Christians. To me that association seems to be a Jekyll/Hide thing. How can you be so irrationally in favor of all guns without ANY restrictions and the resulting violence that it brings and be a follower of Jesus who was anything but a violent man?  It is hard for me to fathom that association but I have to accept that it is there.

SlipperyOne thing that Evangelicals and NRA members hold very much in common is the idea of the “slippery slope”. It is very much engrained into the basic culture of both those groups.

The slippery slope for the NRA is that “if we allow any control/regulation of guns then we will slide into a total restriction of them and then the “State” will come in and take them away from us so as to make us powerless in resisting their demands.  In my mind this is a very dark view of our country. To think that they fear our government who does the people’s business so much that they are willing to accept any number of Newton tragedies  rather than allow any regulations on how and to who guns are sold.

The evangelical slippery slope goes something like this.  If any part of the Bible is not considered absolutely true and without the possibility of error then that will cause us to fall down a slippery slope that makes all of the Bible questionable and therefore it becomes a worthless document.  I personally went through an extensive round of discussions with a clergyman who espoused this idea. He simply would not begin to accept the idea that since the Bible was written by men it was therefore open to error. He simply refused to believe that with all the scientific evidence of the history of the earth that is was more than 6,000 years old.  To him and many like him if the Bible is not 100% true then it is worthless.

The slippery slope is very much a black/white thing. There is no grey area in that concept for its believers. Either you are for guns without any restrictions whatsoever or you are for the total ban of guns. Either the Bible is absolutely true and without any possibility of error or it is a worthless document.

Black/White, Either/Or, No Middle Ground.

But I do celebrate the fact that most who call themselves Christians realize that things are not that simple. There are grey areas of the Bible like there are in all other things of human creations.  To most Christians including me the Bible is a very cherished document but we recognize that it was written by men and therefore some in it is likely just stories/myth, some of it is allegory and meant to relay a message and some of it is likely very man-made. Yes it was inspired by God but was not tossed down from heaven by him.

The slippery slope is a dangerous concept for our society and for our spiritual beliefs….

2015-01-23_11-40-13The problem is simply that Francis has broken from too many elements in the Republican Party platform. First there were affirming statements about homosexuality. Then harsh words for capitalism and trickle-down economics. And now climate change. That, it seems, is a bridge too far. Francis has put conservative American Catholics in the position of having to choose between the pope and the GOP. It should surprise no one that they’re siding with the Republicans.

SOURCE:  The Week – The Republican Party’s war with Pope Francis has finally started.

Yeah, Pope Francis does seem to conflict with many of the current foundations of the GOP. He simply cares too much about the poor and economic inequality. Being a Franciscan priest who spent much of his life among the poor in South America I am not at all surprised. He cares too much about climate change and being responsible stewards of the earth. He cares too much about loving each other. So, with a battle looming of allegiances between their religion and their politics which way will  the average GOP conservative go?

According to this article they, for the most part, are choosing their politics and like the NYPD, are turning their backs to this new pope and that in my mind is a total shame. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though but I am definitely disappointed and I hope that it isn’t a broad thing among American Catholics. As a whole Catholics tend to vote Democrat but that is primarily because a significantly larger number of non-white Catholics skew the results that way. In my mind this is the most relevant pope in my lifetime as far as obeying Jesus’ command to love each other.

About Islam and terrorism…

February 4, 2015

I have been meaning to study more about the Muslim world. I know it rivals Christianity as the largest religion in the world. Here are some supposed facts I recently found about it from a recent on-line article. Click the source below to see the complete article.

2015-01-23_11-29-371. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

2. European Muslims are more moderate on sharia law.

Eighty-four percent of Muslims in South Asia, 77 percent of percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia, and 74 percent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa believe that sharia law should be official law in their respective countries. Only 18 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that sharia law should be enshrined in addition to (or in lieu of) the existing law.

3. Some Muslims are immersed in an environment that permits and nourishes the core beliefs they cite as reasons for acting as they have.

For example: 2.3 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that people who leave the Muslim faith should be executed. By contrast, 63 percent of Muslims in South Asia share that belief, as do 44 percent of Muslims in the Middle East, and 20 percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

4. Just north of ten percent of Muslims worldwide support and sanction religously motivated violence against civilians in at least some contexts.

That’s about 195 million, according to the most accurate polling of Muslim beliefs.

7. There are seeming contradictions in how much Muslims support women’s rights.

In Europe, 44 percent of Muslims think that women should at all times submit to their husbands, but 88 percent believe that women ought to choose for themselves whether they should wear a veil in public. Outside of Europe, strong majorities of Muslims believe that women must obey their husbands and wear their veils outside their home. 

8. There are big geographic differences in how people interpret the truth of the Islamic faith.

In 32 of the 39 countries surveyed, half or more Muslims say there is only one correct way to understand the teachings of Islam. In the United States, nearly six in ten Muslims think there are many ways to interpret Islam.

SOURCE:  8 facts you need to know about Islam and terrorism.

Some of these statistics surprised me. I have always thought that the radicals who seem so dominant in the news were completely out of step with the average follower of that religion. But this article seems to say not as much out of tune as I thought.  Over three-fourths of the Asian and Middle East muslims think that Sharia law should be the only law of their countries. 195 million support religiously sanctioned violence and about half say that if you leave Islam you should be executed!!  The vast majority of practicing muslims don’t support any form women’s rights or even human rights in general.

These numbers say that muslims are more aligned with some ISIS  ideology than I originally believed.  I certainly don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here and it does seem that at least muslims in western countries, which are a distinct minority of muslims,  are less rigid than in the rest of muslim the world. One of the most basic things that confuses me about Islam is that they seem to put much more emphasis on their prophet Mohammad than they do God himself.  Why is that? Is it ok to have a picture of God but not Mohammad? I guess I need to study this religion more…. but what I have found so far kind of startles me….