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Taliban militants in Afghanistan have executed a woman for adultery. The Afghan government has condemned the action as un-Islamic.

Do you hear that, Jihadistan? UN-ISLAMIC.

While you're at it, you might consider renouncing the following parts of your traditional culture, which are not found anywhere in the "أركان الإسلام" and have nothing to do with true Islam:

  • Oppressing women and minorities - you know, people like gays, Christians, Jews, Baha'is, that sort of thing.
  • Fatwas
  • Dhimmitude
  • Persecuting people who leave your faith or who embrace Western culture. (That's called free agency. It's a great thing. You ought to look into it.)1
  • Interpreting Jihad to mean "Convert or Die"
  • Among others

You see, what Jihad means is a personal struggle to become a better person, a lifelong effort to make yourself more like Allah - who is, as the Qur'an says - benevolent and merciful. I'm not even an Islamic scholar, and I know that much; and I'll stand in front of God at the last day and say so, and let the chips fall where they may.

Let Islam as a body, all billion or so of you, rise up and renounce violence and oppression, and then I will believe that Islam is, as you say, the religion of peace. But not until then.

1The topic of abuses and excesses among other faiths is reserved for a future essay, just so no one thinks we're being one-sided here.
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A recent article by the AP highlights allegations of community-wide misconduct by members of the "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in the twin cities of Hilldale, Utah and Colorado City, Colorado.

I felt it important to point out to my friends and associates that the word "Fundamentalist" is part of the name of an organization, and not an adjective.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City and with a worldwide membership now approaching 15 million, was founded in 1830. For a time, a small percentage of Church leaders and members practiced plural marriage. This practice was abandoned in 1890, and members who participate in polyamorous relationships are excommunicated.

The FLDS church was founded in the early 20th century by those who split from the main body of the Latter-day Saints, disagreeing with the 1890 Manifesto. It is currently ruled by Warren Jeffs, an imprisoned, convicted pedophile, who most recently commanded (from prison) that only 15 men will be allowed to father children for the religion.

I was actually quite pleased when the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (those who followed Joseph Smith's family after his death, rather than Brigham Young) changed their name to the Community of Christ - it sets them apart as a unique organization rather than tying them to a tradition which no longer reflects their views; conversely, I find it unfortunate that the name of Jeffs' organization tends to foster confusion and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes against the LDS Church. Even today, when I travel outside of Utah, I have had people ask me (should the topic of religion come up) how many wives I have.

I firmly uphold the right of people to believe what they will; Jeffs, however, is depraved and unstable, advocating the practice of "marrying" girls as young as 12 for the purpose of conjugal relations, which crosses every possible societal boundary imaginable. With this kind of man at the head of his community, I would have no problem believing that his followers were engaged in unusual behavior towards outsiders.

Time will tell how this all falls out, but in the meantime, it's important for the general public to understand that these people are not Latter-day Saints, and haven't been for over 100 years.
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The phenomenon of "church hopping" is common, well-documented, and widely lamented by devotees of the various mainstream Christian churches. It's not at all uncommon for a family to attend a Methodist church, move to a different state or town and pick up with a Presbyterian congregation. Lutherans become Congregationalists and vice versa, and within the Baptist church people switch congregations more often than chameleons change colors. While less frequent, the phenomenon even appears in the Catholic tradition - Romans become Orthodox or Episcopalian, Anglicans return to the Mother Church. And somehow, aside from the doctrinal purists who feel that this is anathema, nobody in society gives it a second thought.

But let a person leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially if the person is prominent in some way or other, and the media acts as though deer hunting season came three months early: every religion writer loads his shotgun and puts the Mormon Church squarely in their sights.

An article appearing yesterday on the BBC's website discusses Park Romney (a cousin of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney) and his exit from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And, as is more often than not the case, it's full of innuendo and inaccuracy.

Quoting the article:

Ex-Mormons tend to be the church's most outspoken critics. One thing that particularly agitates them is "shunning" - allegations that former church members are denied access to family members who remain in the church. Park claims this has happened to him. "I am alienated from my family," he told the BBC. "Their doctrine, their protocol and their culture as enforced by bishops encourages the families to disassociate themselves from the apostate."

This is, to put it bluntly, horsefeathers. Shunning appears in the Anabaptist tradition, often known as "Meidung," and indeed was part of the reason that the Amish and the Mennonites went their separate ways; and it is practiced to varying degrees in some other faiths, but the official practice of "shunning" is not now, nor has it ever been a part of the Mormon church.

To set the record straight, the Latter-day Saint faith has disciplinary procedures. One is excommunication, in which a member is removed from the Church rolls; another is "disfellowshipment," which means only that he is prohibited from accepting communion and can't preach sermons in meetings. These actions are not imposed for smoking or drinking, having differing opinions, being Democrats, or wondering whether Science really has it right; we're talking about crimes like murder or other felonies, financial defalcation, coming out in open rebellion against the Church, abuse, and other serious transgressions. And neither one, despite what disaffected members may say or may have experienced, means that they are to be ignored or cast out or placed in Coventry. I say here openly and without fear of retribution that any Church leader or member who preaches such nonsense is wrong, and misses the whole point.

Mormons are just people, and you find jerks everywhere. If Park Romney is isolated from his family, it just means that his family must have skipped over that part in the Bible where Jesus was talking about love. I have three kids, and each one has drifted partially or completely away from the faith in which they were raised. I would be a fool to deprive myself of association with them simply because they have other beliefs, and my life would be immeasurably poorer.

In the end, I have to remind myself that most journalists are not about reporting the facts, they're about increasing readership. And nothing increases readership more than setting another group apart, making them seem "weird" and "other" and "less than," so that the general public can nod knowingly and feel better about their own particular brand of oddness. Singling out a person for undesirable attention because of their faith is no better than degrading someone because of their race, and if we're ever going to aspire to the label of civilized beings, it needs to stop.
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The head of the national Interfaith Alliance says people of faith should engage in civil dialogue about gay marriage, but government should rely on the U.S. Constitution -- not religion -- in deciding who can marry.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy says marriage is a legal issue in the United States and only government can grant a marriage license.

Gaddy spoke Friday at Sunstone, an annual forum for Mormon culture and academic study in Salt Lake City.

Gaddy commended church goers who support gay marriage, but remain active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church opposes gay marriage and has worked against marriage equality legislation nationwide.

Gaddy says laws legalizing gay marriage doesn't prohibit churches from practicing their beliefs.

Original article here.
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I'm not in favor of blasphemy. I think atheists are ripping themselves off, and I think those who belittle people of faith because of their traditions are acting contrary to their better nature. But that's just my opinion, valid for me. And in this case, the Irish humanists have got it right - a law banning blasphemy is about as chuckleheaded a statute as ever I have heard in a society that endorses freedom of religion, which - by extension - implies freedom of no religion.

Even arguing for the existence of God, His plan doesn't seem to call for raining hellfire down on the Janjaweed who are busy slaughtering thousands in Sudan, for example... why the hqiz would He show up to back a few wild-eyed lawmakers who don't like the way people talk about Him?

Once again, religion oversteps its bounds. Let the Catholic clergy preach from the pulpit that blasphemy is out of order. Let those who go to listen, choose for themselves. Let the Church censure those of their flock who stray, if they feel so inclined. But for the love of Mogg's Grandmother, don't expect those who are not part of your congregation or your traditions to conduct their lives according to your whims.
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I love Wiley - he's got a great sense of humor and a finely-tuned BS-meter.

theoldwolf: (Default)

Islam is great. If you enjoy being a Muslim.

But what if you're a "Jack-Muslim", as it were... and enjoy a little Courvoisier after dinner? What if you're Muslim, and a woman - and want to wear the latest Yves St. Laurent number instead of hijab? Or what if you're Muslim, and gay at the same time? Or what if you're Muslim, and decide you'd rather be a Baha'i?

In Iran, or Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, or any number of Islamic countries, the above "crimes" can get you beaten, jailed, raped or executed.

And that's just wrong; religion should encourage people to improve their lives, not ruin their lives if they don't.

A good man I know once said, "Religion is designed to make you a better person. If you're still a jerk, it's not working."

I support the right of the people of Iran to elect an Islamic government if they so choose, but any government that fails to respect the inalienable rights of the governed to determine their own destiny will not last.

If we ever want to build a world that works for everyone, we as humans are going to have to get a whole lot smarter about what's important - having power over others, or having power over ourselves.
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Been there, done that and bought that T-Shirt back in 1969. Converted from The First Church of Who the Hell knows Nothin' (Secular Humanist Agnostic) to the LDS faith. And never looked back. It felt like coming home.
theoldwolf: (Default)

Thanks to [ profile] dhlawrence for the idea.

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