Posts Tagged “conversion”

Egypt sectarian violence / Christian, Muslim youths clash in Cairo / A dozen people have been killed in the clashes that occurred in the Cairo district of Imbaba (Aljazeera)Hosni Mubarak may be out of power, but all is not well in the Land of the Nile. Religious violence has become an increasing problem in Egypt and its new government is having difficulty dealing with it. Al Jazeera reports on a renewed eruption of religious strife in Cairo, in the wake of a woman’s conversion from Christianity to Islam (WebCite cached article):

Egyptian troops are out in force in central Cairo after weekend riots left 12 people dead and more than 200 injured.

Clashes between Muslims and Copts have raised fears that more sectarian strife could erupt in the country which remains under military rule three months after former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power. …

The bloodshed began on Saturday evening when word spread around the Imbaba neighborhood that a Christian woman who had converted to Islam had been abducted and was being kept in the Virgin Mary Church against her will.

About 500 ultraconservative Salafi Muslims gathered at the church, calling on Christians to hand over the woman.

Both sides traded gunfire, firebombs and stones, witnesses said.

Soldiers and police fired shots in the air and used tear gas to separate the sides but stone-throwing went on into the night.

Al Jazeera offers an excellent video report, but for some reason there’s no option to embed it, so I can’t do so here.

The idea that religious conversions must be met with violence is, quite obviously, absurd. No one is required to be happy about a conversion, but to hold her in a church and then exchange gunfire and Molotovs over it, is beyond rationality. It just goes to show that Egypt has a long way to go before it matures sufficiently. That’s ironic, since her civilization is among the oldest on the planet, meaning its people have no excuse for not having grown up enough to deal with things like this.

Note that the uptick in Muslim/Christian violence predates the revolution that toppled Mubarak. On January 1 of this year, a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria was bombed, killing 21 people.

Photo credit: Snapshot from Al Jazeera video.

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Bundesarchiv Bild 102-06851, Mailand, Parade italienischer FrontkämpferBill Donohue, the Christofascist who heads the Catholic League, reached a new high in low, during an appearance on Fox News, wherein he made his position on Christmas — and on what everyone should believe, generally — crystal clear. News Hounds reports that what he said, is that non-Christians need to convert to Catholicism and worship Christmas along with him (WebCite cached article). He began with some remarks about reports that Christmas trees make some non-Christians uncomfortable:

Bill’s verbal pugilism escalated with “tell them to get over it.” He then did a litany of those who are “excluded,” including “mothers who feel excluded from father’s day” (WTF!) and said “too bad.”

What the fuck, indeed! I had no idea that any mothers felt “excluded” from Father’s Day. Where did the Billster pull that from?

Bill claimed that his Jewish friends (imaginary?) say this is ridiculous and that “everybody celebrates Christmas.”

Aha. The old “some of my best friends are Jewish” thing. Sorry Bill, but that you happen to know a few Jews who celebrate Christmas, tells us absofuckinglutely nothing about Jews as a group, or even about non-Christians generally. My guess, Bill, is that any Jewish friends you may have, are telling you what you want to hear because they know what a ferocious Christofascist you are. (That’s assuming you really have any Jewish “friends,” Bill … I find that claim to be non-credible.)

He then brayed that if people are made uncomfortable by Christmas displays — are ya ready for it — they should “convert to Catholicism.”

Yes, folks, that’s the Billster’s solution to the problem of religious inclusiveness … everyone should just convert en masse to his own religion, Roman Catholicism, and — voilà! — problem gone.

That, Gentle Reader, is the very definition of a religious militant, and now you see why I’ve been saying that the Billster is a Christofascist.

The really sad part about this is that a lot of religious folks are going to read what the Billster said, and agree with him, that everyone converting to the same religion would solve the problem of religious division. What all of Bill’s believer/defenders fail to understand is the truly hideous nature of this idea. Its horror would become clearer, if put in the mouths of others. They wouldn’t be too keen, for example, on al-Qaeda terrorists saying to them, “If you want us to stop trying to blow you up by the dozen, all you have to do is convert to our Wahhabi Islamism.” Its criminality becomes even more obvious if one puts it in the mouth of a robber: “All you need do is give me all your money, and I won’t be forced to attack you.”

At any rate, I have to wonder, though, how many of the Billster’s allies among the rest of the Religious Right — which is overwhelmingly evangelical Protestant and therefore opposed to Catholicism — are going to take his demand that everyone convert to Catholicism. My guess is that they secretly cringed when they heard that … but in the interest of militant-Christian solidarity against non-Christians, they likely would never openly admit it.

I hope any doubts as to the religiofascist goals of people like Bill Donohue have been dispelled. Now you understand why they make such an issue out of Christmas every year … for them, it’s a wedge issue they can use to push their demand that everyone in the world believe what they do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Image assembled from 4 photos.It’s been a couple years in coming, but it seems the dam of the Anglican Union has broken. Five Anglican bishops have bolted their church, over its increasingly progressive policies, and they’ve gone over to Roman Catholicism. Reuters reports on the first of what promises to be many more defections (WebCite cached article):

Five Church of England bishops opposed to the ordination of women bishops will take up an offer by Pope Benedict and convert to Roman Catholicism, heralding a possible exodus of traditionalist Anglicans.

An arrangement has been made within the Catholic Church under which any currently-married Anglican clergy can convert, without having to set aside their wives under Catholicism’s centuries-old celibacy requirement. (This is not entirely unprecedented; there are Eastern Rite clergy belonging to the Maronite Church — for example — who likewise can be married, but who are in communion with Roman Catholicism.) The direct cause of what amounts to the opening salvo in a renewed Anglican schism is the ordination of women:

One of the departing prelates said the women bishops issue was part of a wider problem they had with the Church of England claim to belong to the universal Church founded by Jesus that includes the far larger and older Roman Catholic Church. …

Church of England defections were triggered by a vote at the July General Synod, the Church’s parliament, that confirmed it would consecrate women bishops.

At one time the Anglican Church had been one of the most progressive of the world’s mainline churches. Defections such as this are bound to yank it backward in time and force it to return to more medieval ways, inspired by the apostle Paul, who (supposedly) said, among other things:

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:34-35)

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Eph 5:24)

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Col 3:18)

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (1 Tim 2:11-12)

These, of course, are merely the tip of the iceberg: The rest of the Bible is hardly kind to women, either. It’s all because of Eve, you see (see especially Gen 3:16). Because a serpent swindled Eve, every woman who ever lives simply must be treated like crap. Isn’t that obvious!?

Pedantic note: Most scholars dismiss the idea that Saul (aka Paul) actually wrote any of these words. The epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians and to Timothy and Titus were likely written by later Christians and falsely attributed to Paul in order to give them greater apparent authority. While Paul likely did write both canonical epistles to the Corinthians, the above-quoted passage — and a few others — are probably later interpolations (or insertions). Here’s a Wikipedia article introducing the subject of Paul’s authorship, in case you feel like exploring the topic in greater depth … and I definitely advocate looking much further than just Wikipedia.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Christopher HitchensPerhaps you’ve heard that Christopher Hitchens — one of the three so-called “New Atheists” whom theists despise more than anything else in the world — has come down with cancer, and ended a book tour abruptly in order to get it treated. This news has caused theists to lick their chops and salivate at the prospect that Hitchens might convert to worship as a result of it. The Star-Ledger of New Jersey, for example, opines as follows (WebCite cached article):

But Hitchens’ rebellion against God has been so public that God may require a very public humbling.

The author is saying that cancer is God’s humiliating retribution against Hitchens for having written God Is Not Great. I suppose this kind of tactic is natural to the deity who tortured Job outrageously, then railed at him over it.

This comes after the obligatory … but factually incorrect … claim that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Of course there are atheists in foxholes — I can even introduce you to some, if you don’t believe me!

Then there’s this little number from the (UK) Catholic Herald (cached article):

Perhaps visiting his doctor will be a wake-up call for Hitchens?

Again with the belief that God is using a physical affliction to coerce Hitchens into converting … coming from a member of the so-called “Religion of Love” (aka Christianity).

Isn’t it amazing the kinds of truly wicked contortions Christians will engage in, in order to think better of themselves and of their God, and worse of their non-believing foes? What childish nonsense.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: USA Today Faith & Reason blog.

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German Crusader KnightThe Family Research Council — an arm of the militant Religious Right in the United States — has, essentially, declared war on the US. Specifically, they’ve declared a theocratic war on the secular government of this country. Their effort includes the launch of a special Web site called Replace Repeal Restore! (WebCite cached version). The preamble to their declaration of theocratic war is as follows:

We, the people, have the responsibility to determine the future of our nation. I pledge to do my part by standing and speaking boldly for conservative principles, for liberty, and for the Constitution. I will help REPLACE liberal politicians; I will help REPEAL the government takeover of health care; I will help RESTORE the founding principles in our nation. Enough is enough — it’s time for Congress and the White House to listen to the people.

They think that the passage of healthcare reform constitutes the federal government somehow “not listening” to the people. The truth is that they did listen to “the people.” They just didn’t happen to DO what you, the members of the FRC, wanted them to do.

Boo fucking hoo.

Memo to FRC: “Listening” is not the same as “obedience.” It’s possible to “listen to” someone, but to decide, even after truly “listening,” not to do what they say. Got it?

The truth of the matter is that the United States is not a Christian theocracy, was never intended to be a theocracy, and arguably, it’s not even “a Christian nation,” as the FRC and Sarah Palin believe. One of the “founding principles” of the nation is something known as “freedom.” That necessarily includes the freedom not to be a Christian … believe it or not.

My response to the FRC is the same as it was to Mrs Palin: If you guys want me — an American — to be a Christian, as you demand I become, then you’re just going to have to make me one.

Go ahead. I invite to you try. Let it all out and give it to me straight. Don’t hold anything back, and don’t relent.

You guys want the US to become a theocracy? That’s great. You can start by making me a Christian — my own wishes notwithstanding.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: About.Com Atheism/Agnosticism.

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Sarah PalinThe nation’s apparent religionist-in-chief has declared the United States “a Christian nation.” The Washington Post Under God blog reports on her claim (WebCite cached article):

In a speech last week, Sarah Palin promoted belief in God as a form of patriotism, dismissed notions that “America isn’t a Christian nation,” and denounced a federal judge’s ruling that it’s unconstitutional for government to declare a National Day of Prayer.

“God truly has shed his grace on thee — on this country. He’s blessed us, and we better not blow it. And that’s why I talk about politics,” Palin told the 16,000-member choir at a Women of Joy conference in Louisville, Ky., last Friday.

“Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” she continued. “Hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation . . . It’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions recently, but politics truly is a topic for another day.”

Mrs Palin, of course, is alluding here to Barack Obama, who — as the Post explains — didn’t actually say what she suggests he said:

Palin’s reference to “any leader” was a clear reference to President Obama, who in a 2006 speech said, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation — at least not just — we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers.”

Those comments — especially the truncated sound bite “We are no longer a Christian nation” — were deployed across the Web to depict presidential candidate Obama as a non-Christian or an anti-Christian.

Once again Mrs Palin displays an astounding penchant for not letting facts get in the way of a sanctimonious diatribe.

The Religious Right’s continual mantra that “the U.S. is a Christian nation” has, of course, one ramification, if taken to its logical conclusion: That every American must be a Christian. To this, I say — to Mrs Palin and to any other ardent Christian who believes as she does — as the godless agnostic heathen that I am: Go ahead. Make me a Christian. Please. By all means, give it your best shot, and don’t hold anything back.

How Mrs Palin — or anyone else — goes about this, will tell me everything I need to know about Christianity. And if they refuse to attempt it, this means they’re just going to have to accept that I’m a godless agnostic heathen … and stop demanding that I become a Christian.

It really is that simple.

So, is this truly “a Christian nation”? Are Christians who think so, actually willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? Time will tell.

P.S. It’s not as though Sarah Palin actually understands what it means to be “Christian” … her command of the teachings of Jesus himself is tenuous, if not non-existent, as I blogged just a little while ago.

Photo credit: Thomas Roche.

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