07 December, 2007

Choosing Your Religion 2

Teddy Bear Nightmare

A few weeks ago I said that no God should need a gun. No God would need some idiot earthling to run interference for him (or her), or prepare the way, nor even hasten God's (re)-arrival.
A few days after that, the Sudan made world headlines because they wanted to kill a teacher who allowed her pupils to name a class teddy bear Muhammad. Everyone should know the story by now, and today I read Leonard Pitts' Fundamentalists Threatened by a Teddy Bear, in which he provides a nice capsule of Gillian Gibbons' ordeal. Pitts then makes a delightful seque and pins the blame right where it belongs; on religious fundamentalists. Rigid doctrinaires, he calls them.

Throughout her ordeal, she has maintained that she respects Islam and has asked that people not think ill of the faith because of this. Which is exactly right. Islam is not the problem. Fundamentalism, however, is. And that, as we should know from our own experience, is a mindset that is not confined to one faith.
To the contrary, every faith has them, these rigid doctrinaires who would sacrifice their very humanity for the fool's gold of theological purity, these people so eager to live the literal law of their holy books that they miss the point of those holy books, shedding compassion, kindness and plain common sense along the way.
Quick to condemn
Worse, they are always literal about the wrong things, always literal about passages in holy writ that they feel empower them to punish, judge, ostracize and condemn. Never literal about the passages that require them to give, forgive, serve and stand humble.
As I said, it's a failing common to fundamentalists, but that failing has seldom been more galling than here. We are, after all, talking about Sudan, a nation that was embroiled in civil war almost constantly from the time it gained independence in 1956 until a peace treaty was signed in 2005. More than two million people died in that war, more than four million were displaced.
And then there is Darfur, the western region where four years of government-backed genocide has left an estimated 200,000 people dead

Somewhere in amongst the throngs of protesting mulsims, the multitudes marching in the Sudanese streets; someone in the crowd of thousands had to have wondered, "gee, wasn't it the kids who voted to name the teddy bear Muhammad?" "Shouldn't the ones who presented the name Muhammad for the bear and the ones who cast their ballots for that name be held to account?" Well, maybe they are too young, or maybe they are not, but does it fall to a foreigner, a woman from England to correct these youngsters in the ways of their own religion? Do the parents bear any responsibility in this matter? How about the Islamic religious faculty at the school?

Really what the latest sadness in Sudan shows us, is just another episode where humans inately blame someone else for their own failings. It was not an English woman's job to teach these children about their own religion. Blaming her because your kids, did not know something that you should have taught them - about your own religion - is just a cop out.

From: Choosing Your Religion 11-8-2007:

Religion does not divide us. Religious bureaucrats, with their ceremonies, and their claims of doctrinal exclusivity divide us. They divide us for their own power and profit. Their attempted religiofication of humankind's spritual quest, trying to turn our own sacred pilgrimage into their next holy war, that's what divides us.

Conquer yourself and not the world.-descartes

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