Monday, October 23, 2006

We Deserve A Break

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion - several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven. ~Mark Twain

All right, the Islamists and Christians need to take a time-out right now. Go to your rooms and stay there until you can learn some tolerance for others and for your own brethren. And you Jewish folks, don't go acting smug, or I'll send you to your rooms as well.

I could deal with Islamic people getting upset with the depictions of Mohammed in the Danish funny pages (or editorial pages, wherever) because it is a blatant disrespect of a basic tenet of their faith. Just as free speech doesn't apply to shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, it also doesn't protect incendiary speech, especially when there are other ways to say the same thing. Of course, getting upset doesn't excuse some of the behavior that was exhibited by the faithful, but the nature of the incident made it difficult for more moderate voices to be heard.

However, when Muslims start claiming that every rectangular solid is a copy of the Ka'ba, the holy buildng in Mecca, they're just being ridiculous, especially when the solid is just a glass storefront for a computer store. What next? Perhaps it will be an insult to Islam to use any of the letters in the Prophet's name or for a non-Muslim to say Koran.

There is insult, there is over-sensitivity, and then there's just plain stupid.

Conservative Christians have their own techniques for making everyone's life miserable. When they're not trying to dictate what we see or read or teach in our schools, they're accusing their own flock of falling prey to the evils of the modern world. In particular, it seems some Evangelicals are worried about that new and powerful source of evil, blogs.

The Register reported the monthly newsletter of Reformed Church of God had a scathing article against the evils of blogging. The author of newsletter does allow as how some blogs, written by professionals and specialists are all right, but we ordinary folk are engaging in a socially accepted practice - just as are dating seriously too young, underage drinking and general misbehaving. I certainly can't qualify for either of the first two at the age of 57, so I guess I must be generally misbehaving.

Perhaps most damning of all (at least according to the author), blogging often makes the blogger "feel good or makes him feel as if his opinion counts - when it is mostly mindless blather!"

I wonder how he feels about Fox News.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there's a lot of mindless blather in the blogosphere. Goodness knows, I try to contribute my share. But, if blather is a sin, then the bulk of humanity is going to Hell.

The author quotes Proverbs 17:27-28 as his basis:
  • He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of calm spirit.
  • Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
Thus, in this man's universe, there are wise people who never say anything and fools who seem wise because they don't talk. Where that leaves the average person is a bit mysterious, although stating an opinion seems guaranteed to get you labeled as a fool. Besides, the Bible isn't saying sounding like a fool is a sin; it's only saying that when a fool opens his mouth (or writes in his blog) he simply removes all doubt that he is a fool (female fools exist, too, but I get tired of writing he/she all the time).

Of course, what the newsletter writer really means is that if you don't agree with him, then you're a fool. And, heaven forbid that anyone should have the temerity to feel good about themselves.

And then there's the latest from Pope Benedict XVI. Not long ago, the Pope decided to hold a private seminar to assess the Church's position on Darwinian evolution. If anything has come out of that, I've missed it altogether, but I didn't miss the latest idea being floated by the Vatican. Seems that the Pope favors returning to the Latin mass.

As someone who grew up attending the Latin mass, I was one of those who wasn't in favor of having the mass in the local language. One of the wonderful things about the Catholic mass that it didn't matter whether you entered a Church in Montevideo or Monticello; it was the same Mass which could be followed in your missal. After all, "catholic" means universal, and what could be more universal than a mass that was consistent in all Catholic churches? So, on the one hand, I ought to be pleased.

However, it appears that this move has nothing to do with universality; it has to do a return to a more conservative Catholic Church. Instead of John Paul II's attempts to move the Church forward (in everything but birth control), we now have a desire to return to some idealized past. One can hardly wait to hear the next pronouncement out of Rome. Perhaps Galileo will be re-condemned or, better yet, maybe the Pope will call for a new Crusade.

Go to your rooms. Now.

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