Sunday, July 29, 2007

What's Going On? (With Update)

Here's an interesting opening para from a recent AP story out of Baghdad: A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post.
(The story is by STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers, dated July 28, 2007, "Heat rises between Iraq PM and Petraeus." The link is to a site.)

So, the man who is named by President bush tens of times a month as being the person who will give us the report in September is at odds with the Prime Minister of Iraq?

The PM is upset because the General is too comfy with Sunnis which tends to kill off Shias like the PM?

The PM doesn't like what our "decider" on the scene is doing/planning?

According to the story our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, admits to "sporty exchanges" between the two men.


Before we allow the "report" in September to mire us in this unhappy mess, we should take time to insist that someone, somewhere, verify before place our trust in further involvement in this obvious sectarian strife in Iraq.


The Los Angeles Times reports that Petraeus dismissed as "ludicrous" a report that Maliki felt he could no longer work with the general.

The problem, according to the Times article, is with the conflicts between Sunni and Shia adversaries.

---We'll see whether the AP or the LAT has the correct version. In any event, Petraeus' credibility is in jeopardy.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Religion's 3rd Category

So many of my friends, Dear Reader(s), listen politely to my protestations that organized religions are the source of much of the world's woes, giving me hope that finally someone out there agrees and is willing to join the struggle for the soul and safety of the world, who then politely change the subject, telling me in a very subtle way, "Please. Organized religions cannot be overcome. They are with us and with us they will stay. Save your energy."

The veritable wall of submission, islam?, is immutable, it seems. Religion will not be changed, therefore, it cannot be changed.

OK. Regardless of that dictum, one must persevere. Let me try again.

Generally, one divides organized religions into two parts, the laity and the clergy. How about, for the purposes of this particular type of discussion, we add a third part--the exploitative.

The exploitative is the person who studies a religion's teachings and looks for a word or a phrase which is ambiguous, therefore useful in developing an idea which might confuse an issue, thus giving the exploiter a way in which to further his ambition.

In English literature, Chaucer limned the Pardoner; in French, Moliere gave us Tartuffe, in the New Testament we have the cleansing of the Temple. In American literature we have Elmer Gantry. These are well-known examples of exploiters who are after monetary gain. This exploiter is an age-old personage. We have known virtually from the beginning of religious development of his existence.

Today we have a new sort of exploiter--one who is after a power which surpasses the powers individuals of societies have ceded to their leaders. This is a very dangerous person, and he needs to be given the respect which is his due. We must identify him, we must study him, we must protect ourselves from his insidiousness. We have a desperate need to become aware of how he works and what constitutes his danger to our well being.

The "ideological struggle" in which we find ourselves engaged is against this person in all religions. We must search the texts, the lore, the cultures and find those instances where the gullible, whether pope, imam, rabbi, or peasant, is left vulnerable to being used in ways inimical to decency.

We can start by acknowledging the metaphorical aspects of religious writings. There are no pearly gates; and there certainly is not a panderer for carnal pleasure in the hereafter.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Pope Wears Prada, Too

Benedict XVI is back in the news today, in a big way. At a time when the Western world is engaged in a deadly struggle against dogmatic elements of Islam, this red Prada wearing pontiff weighs in with a disheartening proclamation about Roman Catholicism with a little dogmatism of his own.

While B-16 acknowledges some religious communities are able "to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them....the Catholic Church alone" is the only church in which the Church "subsists." No "salvation" for others.

An amusing bit from the newspaper accounts of U.S. protestants came from a Lutheran who said something to the effect that Luterans haven't paid attentin to Rome for 500 years, and they aren't likely to start nowl

Would that others would do the same. Lots of others.

The only sure thing we know about "The Prime Mover" is that the laws of the universe don't change. Gravity alone is immutable; the anthropomorphized deity of the book religions changes with alarming alacrity, depending on the political situation.

How sad the pope chose this particular time to repeat the unverifiable.

We might "trust" what religious leaders tell us, but there's no way on earth we can "verify" their teachings.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ouch! That Petard Hurts!

Very little changes. The recent British "terrorist" incidents have produced a raft of comments, but no discernible change in the way the governments or the other religions "of the book" are dealing with Islamic radicalism.

Could the reason be, "don't queer my scam?"

These Islamists are a very potent danger, and no one seems to be addressing the source of the danger, and that is those passages in the Koran which can be interpreted as justifying, yea, celebrating murder/suicide.

Here's a link to an article in The Australian newspaper which you should read. It is written by one Tanveer Ahmed, and it is titled "Islam must face its uncomfortable truths."

Here's the final paragraph: Muslim communities must openly argue precisely what it is they fear and loathe about the West. Much of it centres on sexuality. This is the first step in rooting out any Muslim ambivalence about living in the West. But thereafter, the argument must proceed rapidly to Islamic theology and all its uncomfortable truths - from its repeated glowing references to violence, its obsession with and revulsion at sex and its historical antipathy to the very possibility that reason can exist as separate from God.

Christian theologians and Jewish theologians must immediately engage in a pan-religion discussion of the deity. They must admit the metaphorical nature of our book religions, and they must challenge Islamic theologians on the nature of God. This will not necessitate a radical shift in theology; all that is needed is intellectual honesty, and trust in the ability of fellow humans to follow rationale.

We need to put the early lore and writings into historical context. We need to acknowledge the communal necessity of certain aspects of early religions. We need to acknowledge those moments when human weaknesses were given the patina of being shared with a deity. It is a virtual blasphemy to teach of gold and pearl and carnal satisfaction in Paradise. Yet these metaphors continue to be taught not as literary tools but as fact.

It is time for popes and prelates and rabbis to cede a bit of their mysticism for the good of humankind. Otherwise they continue to enable those who would destroy them and their "flocks."

Religions of the book must be defanged. A political assassination, an abortion clinic killing, a suicide bombing on a bus all must be denounced as antithetical to the concept of the deity of the books.

Until that begins, we will not see progress towards peace. The world cannot longer tolerate an anthropomorphic deity.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Wish I'd Said That!

Of course, I sorta did.

Both of you guys who drop in here occasionally need to hie thee over to Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish and find the entry called The Lessons of London and Glasgow.

Look closely at this quote from a writer Sullivan identifies as Johann Hari: We also need to unpick the totalitarian ideology of jihadism by democratically opening up Islamic theology, so that over a generation, fewer and fewer young men can convince themselves they are "good Muslims" when they murder innocents.

The world as we know it is in dire need of more discussion and examination of Islamic theology. The more we get that word out, the sooner the world will be safe from the super-faithful.

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