WWMD?


The recent attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo was motivated in part by a perceived insult to Islam and to the prophet Mohammad, a man who may be misquoted and misused just about as much as Jesus, though at least he’s more likely to have actually existed.

An interesting question for followers is Islam is this: how would your prophet have dealt with insults to his person, his standing, his holiness? Would he have ordered all involved to be stoned to death? Whipped? Simply disappeared?

Well, good news, you holy Joes out there. We can answer this!

The Qur’an records that he was called crazy, a victim of deception, a liar, and a fraud. Through this all, the Prophet Muhammad never retaliated or called for these people to be attacked, seized, or executed. This is because the Qur’an says to “overlook their annoying talk” and to “bear patiently what they say.” It instructs us to avoid the company of those who continue their derogatory attacks against Islam. There simply is no room in Islam for responding to mockery or blasphemy with violence.

I’m glad that’s settled. So, basically, if you’re some whacked-out Muslim who wants to go around and kill people for…well, whatever reason, don’t use, “They insulted Islam!” as an excuse.

Advertisements

Biting Us in the Ass


Remember the torture report and all the horrible things it turned out we did? Remember me saying that was going to come back to bite us in the ass? Guess what happened today?

A “radical cleric” named Anjem Choudary has posted up an op-ed for <em>USA Today</em> where he basically says that if you mock Mohammad or any other prophets (a group which includes, btw, Abraham, Moses and, yes, Jesus), then you deserve whatever happens to you

In an increasingly unstable and insecure world, the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Actually, it is neither increasingly unstable nor insecure, and it’s worth noting that, at least as far as the USA is concerned, what instability and insecurity there is comes large from “the Muslim world”. But let’s ignore that nonsense for a moment and focus instead of what he says toward the end of his commentary.

The truth is that Western governments are content to sacrifice liberties and freedoms when being complicit to torture and rendition — or when restricting the freedom of movement of Muslims, under the guise of protecting national security.

Or to put it another way, “Chomp”. That’s the sound of our actions biting us on the ass. I also notice that one the one hand, he seems to be completely ok with the idea of Muslims taking violent action against people who “offend” their religion, but complains about countries subsequently viewing Muslims with greater suspicion. You can’t have it both ways, pal.

This guy is an ass-hat of the first order, and I hope he goes away soon. But…he is annoyingly correct that we haven’t as much of a leg to stand on as we used to, not now that we know we’ve used torture in the recent past and aren’t doing anything to come to terms with that fact.

Note to Certain Muslims: You Are Not Special, Get Over It


So by now you’ve heard about the various riots, protests and other crap going on in the Muslim world due to the existence of a film that, frankly, sounds like a piece of crap. I haven’t bothered to try and watch it because it sounds deeply unpleasant. I have a few thoughts on the violence, protests, etc, however, and I’m going to go over those.

First, it’s perfectly acceptable to be angry about this film. It’s acceptable to be furious, in fact. Taking to the streets in protest is acceptable, and I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone they can’t. However responding with any kind of violence is not acceptable. If I come up to someone on the street and call them a dick, they have the right to ignore me, to walk away, to insult me back or do any number of things. They don’t have the right to punch me, no matter how offended they feel. It’s the same here. Protest all you want, but don’t get violent about it.

I also have to take note of the fact that I suspect the majority of Muslims, while not being happy about the video, understand and recognize that it’s just a stupid movie and if you ignore it, it will, in fact, go away. I think it’s quite likely, too, as others have speculated, that these protests are being made violent by a small core of assholes who are engaging in violent behavior as part of a different agenda. This is rather like the racists who show up at Tea Party events, or the anarchists who show up at Occupy protests.

Speaking of agendas, I’m 99% sure that the people who made this movie and the people who translated it into Arabic did so hoping to get exactly this sort of reaction. They claim Islam is an evil and violent religion, and when things like this happen, it “proves” their point. I guess at least part of my message here is to stop playing into their hands. Disrupt their beliefs in you by, say, protesting silently in a mass of quiet people, or gather around and sing a series of cheerful sounding songs. Protests don’t have to be angry. You’re also certainly welcome to retaliate by making a movie showing Jesus Christ being ass-raped by Satan, if that will help you any.

Lastly, I have to point out that it’s the 21st century (at least for us), and this is a massive, multicultural world. All religions and atheism are open game to be mocked, spat upon and made fun of. It’s just part of the world, and it’s something that Muslims, as well as everyone else, just has to accept. While it is, as I said, acceptable to be angry about it, you probably shouldn’t be. It might really piss you off to see a picture of Mohammad fornicating with a dog, but, frankly, you need to get over it. You aren’t special. Your religion doesn’t deserve any more, or any less, protection than any other.

Before I go, I’d also like to recommend finding and watching Islam: The Untold Story, which was going to air on Channel 4 in the UK recently, but they backed off on it. It’s a fascinating look at some lesser-known elements of the Koran. For example, the fact that Mecca is apparently not mentioned by name, and that the first Arabs to come out of the desert and start conquering might not have been Muslims; that Islam itself might have been started in southern Syria, rather than in Arabia. It’s really interesting and worth seeing if you are able to find it.

Badger’s Bible Project – Ruth


Yes, kids, for the first time we get an entire book of the Bible in one post! How exciting! Of course the entire “book” is only three pages, but there you are.

I will say at the outset that this book surprised me. There’s no god, there’s no angels, there’s no genocide, there’s no smiting. There’s just a lonely, middle-aged woman and her daughter-in-law trying to make a life for themselves, and that’s far more interesting, inspiring and heartwarming than anything I’ve read so far (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much).

We begin with Naomi, a woman who lives in Moab. She’s married and has two adult sons (Mahlon and Chillion), who have married women named Ruth and Oprah. So, apparently the divine Ms. O is older than we’d all suspected. Anyhow, Naomi’s husband dies (Ruth 1:3), and then this:

“Then both Mahlon and Chillion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband” – Ruth 1:5

How unpleasant, and though that’s not something most of us have experienced, I think we can all empathize. What a horrible thing that must be to go through, especially since, as there’s no mention of grandchildren, the sons probably died fairly young. From what I can piece together from my somewhat fragmentary knowledge of ancient Jewish marriages, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sons were in their mid-teens at the time of their deaths, which would be really horrible for their mother.

So Naomi, having lost her two children and her husband, now decides it’s time to leave Moab and return home. She still has her dead sons’ widows hanging around, and doesn’t want them to feel obligated, so she tells Ruth and Oprah that they are welcome to get on with their lives. Oprah agrees, but Ruth doesn’t.

“But Ruth said:
‘Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your god, my god.
Where you die, I will die,
And there be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.'” – Ruth 1:16 – 17

Well, it’s a bit emo and a bit co-dependent, but frankly it’s also kind of lovely. It seems like it’s Ruth saying that she’s with Naomi through thick or thin, even if it means living in a strange land, with new people and worshiping a new god. But is there something else? I don’t know about you, but my third thought upon reading this was, “Lesbians!” Turns out I’m not the only one. I doubt this is meant to be the case. I think it’s just the sort of weird, flowery language of ancient Hebrew by way of Greek and early modern English, but I won’t say it’s outside the realm of possibility. Of course for this to be an accurate view, you have to overlook Ruth spending much of the rest of the book falling in love with a man.

Anyhow, Naomi and Ruth arrive back at Naomi’s hometown where people are pleased to see her, but she seems understandably bitter.

“But she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
“‘I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?'” – Ruth 1:20 – 21

Couple of things here. First off, according to my Bible, the name “Mara” means “bitter”, which was a surprise since I thought it meant “unconvincing snake thing“. Second, yeah, I bet she’s bitter! Her husband and sons are both dead, and she’s too old to have any more (Ruth 1:11). I can well understand her bitterness.

Anyhow, it seems that they arrived at her hometown, Bethlehem, just in time for the local barely harvest. Ruth heads out to glean some of the heads of grain from the fields owned by a man named Boaz. He sees her working, and seems quite taken by her, though he starts by referring to her as “my daughter” (Ruth 2:8), which is kind of creepy given what happens later. I assume it’s just a reasonably subtle way of showing that he’s quite a bit older than she is.

He then starts being nice to her, and she’s confused about this, and asks him why.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.
“‘The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given to you by the lord god of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.'” – Ruth 2:11 – 12

Now that’s something that I like. He recognizes that he’s standing before a good and decent woman who made real sacrifices to care for someone who wasn’t a part of her blood family. I like that. I like that a lot.

Ruth likes it, too, and seems to be developing an interesting Boaz, who then does this:

“And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
“‘Also let grain from the bunches fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.'” – Ruth 2:15 – 16

So everyone seems happy at this state of affairs, including Naomi, who is very aware that Boaz, who is a relative of hers (Ruth 2:20), might be helpful to them in restoring some stability. She actively encourages Ruth to pursue him, saying:

“‘Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor: but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
“‘Then it shall be, when he lies down, taht you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.'” – Ruth 3:3 – 4

Ruth does this, and Boaz seems quite taken by her behavior. He even makes it clear to all and sundry that in fact nothing happened between them. I kind of like that idea. I find the notion of preserving a woman’s virtue to be very quaint and not out of place here.

Things kind of go from there. Boaz wants to marry her, but knows there’s someone else ahead of him (according to the law), who gets first dibs. He sorts this out by making the other man an offer he won’t accept and then the other man makes Boaz an offer he can’t refuse. The two marry and, unusually for a Bible story, everyone lives happily ever after.

I found that this Bible story was quite decent and enjoyable, once I got past the dense language. At it’s heart it’s about family and love and that’s something that hasn’t generally existed in the Bible in a positive way. It’s also interesting to see that Ruth was able to be accepted as a convert to Judaism, because it’s my understand that that sort of thing was fairly rare back in the day and can cause problems even now.

We end the book on the birth of child to Ruth and Boaz; a child that Naomi helps mother like he was her own.

“Also the neighbor woman gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” – Ruth 4:17

Hmmm…Is that perhaps the David, of whom even I, an atheist, have heard? Perhaps. Tune in next time for the first part of the First Book of Samuel, the first Biblical book to have an official sequel!

Badger’s Bible Project – Judges 13:1 – 21:25


Well, yeah. It’s been a while. But good things are worth waiting for, right? Let’s finish up Judges with the story of one of the Bible’s really big-time low-watt bulbs, Samson. Let’s begin at the beginning.

“Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…” – Judges 13:1

So, Tuesday. It doesn’t specify, from what I can tell, exactly what they did, but it was probably something awful. Then again, given how incredibly evil God is in this book, it’s entirely possible someone sneezed on the Sabbath or something.

Anyhow, it seems that there’s this barren woman who wants to have a baby. An angel comes to her and tells her to expect one soon and to forgo wine during the time she’s pregnant. He also tells her that when the baby boy is born, she should make sure to never cut his hair. Then as he’s leaving, people ask him his name.

“And the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?'” – Judges 13:18

Oh, goodie. The Bible is back to not making any sense. I think this is some reference to the stupid concept that names have power, but I’m not absolutely certain. It’s also just a bizarre way of phrasing things.

Anyhow, Samson is born and proves to be…well, many things, but heroic isn’t one of them. Let’s start with his fascination for foreign women, something God has been against.

“So he went up and told his father and mother saying, ‘I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now, therefore, get her for me as a wife.’
“Then his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ And Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she pleases me well.'” – Judges 14:2 – 3

I love the flow of logic here. “I have seen this woman, therefore get her to marry me.” Charming. I also find the whole, “What, you’re too good to marry a nice Jewish girl?” thing to be vaguely amusing.

Not Samson, but would you have believed it if I told you it was?

Things get weird from here. First, while on the way to the wedding, Samson kills a lion with his bare hands. Shades of Heracles, there, which really makes me wonder which story came first. I understand there’s also some overlap with the story of Enkidu, which certainly predates much of the Bible. This is just a guess, but I do find myself wondering if the Jews picked up in that story while in Babylon and that’s how Samson came to be? An influence is certainly possible, and I’m not alone in thinking this.

Anyhow, Samson decides to try and show that he’s smart in addition to strong, and tells a riddle to some of the wedding guests. They spend several days agonizing over it, then finally threaten to kill his wife if she doesn’t find out what the answer is. She finds out, passes it on to them, they solve it, he thinks they screwed his wife in order to get the information (’cause women are totally like that), and then kills thirty people. Charming.

This leads to a series of back-and-forth retaliations, where Samson does something, the other side does something (including a bizarre scene where he ties burning branches to the tails of three-hundred foxes so they will set things afire for him. Something I swear I read about in Greek mythology), and bodies pile up. Eventually Samson takes the jawbone of the donkey and uses it to kill a thousand men. Sturdy bone, that. Also, I imagine that would be very thirsty work, especially in a desert climate.

“Then [Samson] became very thirsty…” – Judges 15:18

Indeedy.

Samson has ditched his old wife and has a new one. But, well, men are men, and he winds up sleeping with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines are very pleased about this and set her upon a task: find out the source of Samson’s strength.

“So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.'” – Judges 16:6

Ah, well, naturally if I were Samson I’d be suspicious of this request and lie, just to see what happens next. Indeed, that’s what he does.

“And Samson said to her, ‘If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
“So the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them.
“Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.” – Judges 16:7 – 9

Well, Delilah is clearly screwed. Given what we’ve seen of Samson so far, it’s logical to assume he kills her, then wipes out her entire nation. Strangely, this is not what happens. From what I can tell, he doesn’t punish her at all.

“Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with.’
“So he said to her, ‘If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.’
“Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, then said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.” – Judges 16:10 – 12

Ok, I think I’ve figured out his little game. Clearly Samson is aware that she’s trying to betray him and is having fun pretending he doesn’t know. Bit of a dick move, but ok. Let’s see what happens next.

“Delilah said to Samson, ‘Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.’ And he said to her, ‘If you weave the locks of my head into the web of the loom-‘
“So she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled the batten out of the web from the loom.” – Judges 16:13 – 14

Wow. Delilah is either really persistent or really stupid. Either way, she must be great fun in the sack, or I don’t see why Samson would continue to hang around with her. I also find it odd that at no point does it mention him killing the men who were lying in wait for him.

Anyhow, Delilah decides to give it one last try.

“Then she said to him, ‘How can you say, “I love you,” when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.’
“And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, that his soul was vexed to death,
“that he told her all his heart, and said to her, ‘No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall be weak, like any other man.” – Judges 16:15 – 18

Wow. Just…wow. I’m really confused here. Let’s consider this:

1. Samson knows Delilah is out to betray him to the Philistines
2. He gets great amusement from telling her lies about his powers, and her efforts to remove them
3. After she bugs him enough, he finally tells her the truth

The only way this makes sense to me is if he doesn’t put two and two together, and thinks that all these nightly attacks are a sheer coincidence. But if that’s the case, he’s possibly the stupidest man who ever lived.

Anyhow, not surprisingly, Delilah gives Samson a shave and a haircut (two shekels!), and the Philistines come along, blind him, tie him up and great ready to sacrifice him to their god, Dagon. But then they delay and delay, and his hair has time to grow back. In the end, he winds up bringing down their temple on top of himself and everyone else, killing three-thousand people. Thus ends the story of Samson.

I know this sounds like me being snarky, but seriously, nothing about Samson or his story makes any sense. Why did he not kill Delilah, or at least send her away, after the first attack? Why did he keep stringing her along? Was she that great in bed? If so, couldn’t he find someone else who would be at least close to as good but wouldn’t try to betray him on a nightly basis? Failing all that, when she starts nagging him daily, why didn’t he just send her away then? And finally, why the fuck did he finally tell her what his weakness was? I could understand this story if it were some sort of parable against hubris (careful, Icarus), or some exhalation to keep it in your tunic, but there’s no clear moral here that I can get at all.

I had been under the vague impression, before reading this, that the story was about Delilah the crafty woman who is able to seduce men to her will. But frankly she’s just about as stupid as Samson, and there’s nothing clever in a: asking straight out three times, and b: then whining until you get the right answers.

Samson doesn’t even seem like some hero to God. He marries outside the faith, and the only time he seems interested in God is when he wants to kill everyone else in the temple before they kill him. There is nothing good, decent or admirable about this man and I truly do not understand the point of him or his story.

The rest of the book seems to concern some weird little thing about Micah and some temple to other gods, and then we get an odd story about a Levite and his concubine. It seems that while they’re visiting a neighboring town, something very unpleasant happens.

“As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!’
“But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, ‘No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage.
“‘Look, here’s is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to the man do not do such a vile thing!’
“But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all the night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.” – Judges 19:22 – 25

Well, wow. Shades of Sodom and Gomorrah, eh? I can conclude from these stories that apparently gangs of men were prowling the Levant looking for people to rape back in the day, and that throwing your virgin daughter to them was a good, noble idea.

Things get worse from there. It turns out the concubine dies from her injuries, and the man cuts her body into twelve parts, then sends them out through the territory. This naturally leads to a war, where it turns out southpaws are special.

“Among all his people were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss.” – Judges 20:16

Nice! It seems like being left-handed was, for some reason, something good when you’re trying to use a sling. I have no idea why this would be the case, but that’s quite neat. Of course, it doesn’t explain why, through the centuries, being left-handed was regarded as a terrible, horrible, evil thing that needed to be beaten out of children. Perhaps a Catholic can explain this to me?

That’s largely it for the book. There’s some bits about the war, but nothing terribly interesting. Frankly, Judges peaks with the story of Samson and goes downhill from there. And I still don’t get why he’s in the story as anything other than a villain.

Next time, the book of Ruth! Yes, a book about a woman. I’ve no doubt this won’t be blood soaked or unpleasant in any way.

When is a Christian Not a Christian?


Not a true Christian.

When he’s Anders Breivik. He says he’s a Christian, and fundamentalist one at that. A “Christianist” as Andrew Sullivan calls him. But according to the Fox News crowd, he’s not a Christian, because Christians don’t go around shooting up people (well, unless they’re Scott Roeder), and detonating terrorist bombs (well, unless they’re Eric Rudolph). Actually, I’m inclined to agree with them. Anyone who goes around killing people is not a true Christian in the sense that they haven’t absorbed the whole “do unto others” and forgiveness thing. They’re especially not true Christians if they kill people in the name of Jesus. This applies not only to Breivik, Roeder and Rudolph, but also to historical terrorism as practiced and preached by many of the Popes, kings, queens, emperors, Crusaders and the like.

Not a true Muslim.

So I’ll agree and I’ll stop calling him a Christian, but only if the same people who get their panties in a bunch about people calling him a Christian also stop referring to terrorists like the ones who attacked us on 9/11 and hit London on 7/7 as “Muslims”. After all, they aren’t true Muslims. The Muslim faith preaches that Allah is all-compassionate and all-forgiving. It explicitly states you shouldn’t make war against the innocent. Saying that it’s ok to go around killing large numbers of people in the name is Islam is no more mainstream than it is to say that it’s ok to kill large numbers of people in the name of Christianity.

So if Breivik wasn’t a true Christian, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, then the various terrorists in the al-Qaeda vein aren’t true Muslims.

To Any Fans of Islam


I am confused by something. I am doing homework on Islam for a religion class, and I’m reading something about Muhammad’s last sermon. In the article I’m reading every time they say his name they add, “Peace be upon him.” I’ve seen this in other places, too, like conversations on Wikipedia pages.

What’s the deal with this? Surely if he was the Prophet of God he’s in Heaven, right? Wouldn’t peace be pretty much automatic at that point? I understand it’s probably custom to add, “Peace be upon him” or “PBUH”, but just why? Can anyone clear this up for me?