Posts Tagged ‘religion’

KNOW THINE ENEMY

November 30, 2015

Continuing along the lines of my last rant, it has become clearer to me that fighting a shadow enemy is not just foolish, but incompatible with long-term survival. To fight it, you must first ferret it out.

It’s a fact that the vast majority of Muslims have been nonviolent. As previously discussed, it is not possible to know what is in the hearts and minds of these noncombatants, how many are sympathetic to the Islamists’ cause, and how many are outraged. There is no question that parts of the Koran and the Hadith, the writings of Muhammad, encourage jihad and the slaying of nonbelievers, even women and children, in the service of Islam. There is also no question that the writings encourage the practice of Islam both spiritually and as a way of life, and prescribe sharia law as the means of fulfilling this. The question as to whether a moderate practitioner of the religion who rejects violent jihad, and even sharia law, is a “true” Muslim, I will leave for the Muslim community to sort out with the Islamists. That being said, much of the confusion paralyzing the West is born precisely from this issue: Is lambasting as extremist the Muslim religion as a whole fair because a fraction of them are vicious, murdering scum?

We have a long-standing history of religious tolerance in this country—in fact, its roots trace back to the Pilgrims’ flight from religious persecution. We’re so sensitive about the issue of “separation of Church and State” that we even forget that the phrase isn’t even in the Constitution, which simply prohibits the government from adopting an official state religion. So prohibiting worship under the name of Islam is abhorrent to our culture, and our natures.

Therefore, to establish a framework for combating our enemies, it is important first to make a distinction between a moderate Muslim, assuming such a thing exists in the absence of acceptance of sharia law, and an Islamist, who embraces sharia and the establishment of a caliphate, with its attendant atrocities. The Islamist uses the same term, Allah, to describe the God he worships, but the confusion this engenders evaporates once we recognize Islamism is nothing more than a Satanic cult couched in the terminology of religion. Their Allah is Satan, their practices are Satanic, and those that “worship” in its name deserve no protection under the guise of freedom of religion.

So, in practical terms, how do we separate the Muslims from the Islamists? As we’ve established, we will not proscribe the practice of a particular religion. We can, however, prohibit the teaching and practice of sharia. We do not allow sharia law to operate in this country. Teaching it might be argued by some to be protected free speech. I disagree. We do not permit hate speech or seditious speech (nor allow one to call out “fire!” in a crowded theater, to cite the hackneyed example). I contend we cannot permit the dissemination of sharia by word or action in our land. Further, I would contend that Muslims be required to sign a contract that they neither support nor condone the teaching or practice of sharia, at the cost of imprisonment or deportation. (I recognize many will be aghast that I’m singling out a group for such a requirement, but I contend that we are in a state of war that requires extraordinary measures.) Clearly, if legal sanctions were in place, many would lie to avoid them. But perhaps some of the most devout Islamists would refuse, and, at worst, the change in tactics would provide us with the tools to seek out and deal with the enemy in a way our current approach cannot.

Things must change in the service of freedom and survival, and they must happen now, or they certainly will later, when our enemies are stronger. We are currently on the same well-worn path with the Islamists we trod with the Nazis in an earlier generation, and there is only one major difference between the two: The Nazis tried to hide their atrocities from the world, while the Islamists celebrate them. Satanism, it appears, is more extreme than Fascism.

Those that choose to interpret my words as bigotry, open your eyes. Read some of the offending parts Koran and the Hadith, pay attention to what is happening in the world … and pray, regardless of your religion, or lack of it.

Because God will always win over Satan unless we turn our backs on Him.

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IMAGINE

March 31, 2014

Forty-three years ago the words of John Lennon’s famous opus greeted us from the speakers of our transistor radios and turntables, vinyl discs spinning at 33 or 45 revolutions per minute, oblivious to their eventual reincarnation on little silver digital platters and magnetic discs whirling at 7200 rpms, or codified on tiny silicone chips. They were, and remain, a plea from a young, idealistic mind, and appeal today to the innocent child in all of us. And they should, like the movies Shrek and Toy Story. They only become dangerous if you believe them.

“Imagine” constructs a (supposed) utopia without heaven or hell, “nothing to kill or die for and no religion….” People living in peace. No possessions, greed or hunger—“a brotherhood of man.” The sentiment comes from a good place, but, like all fairy tales, has a dark side.

By inventing a mythical human nature, it creates a world that, if implemented literally, would destroy the very souls it wants to help. By denigrating religion, it fails to understand the fundamentals of what religion is—a human tool. Just as a gun can be used for good or evil intent, so can religion. In the Middle Ages, Christianity committed atrocities in God’s name, and today the Islamists have hijacked the religion of billions of Muslims and done the same. If the evil that coexists with the nobility in the human spirit just vanished (imagine—it’s easy if you try), then perhaps there would be no need for religion. (No need for faith in God is a larger, more complex issue, however.)

Nothing to kill for may be laudable, but nothing worth dying for … well, that might be a recipe for an empty existence. In Lennon’s utopia there’s no need for countries. In our world, nothing could be farther from the truth. I shudder to think what our planet would be like if the American experiment in freedom, starting to erode at the edges in my lifetime, had failed.

So continue to imagine an existence without greed, without evil, “a brotherhood of man.” But don’t for an instant let your fantasies convince you that we have no need of a strong country—one grounded in principles of human liberty with as fervent a belief in the God that teaches us to “do unto others” as those that want to destroy us believe in a power that tells them to kill anyone who deigns to choose freedom over subjugation.

Don’t be a dreamer.

UNANSWERED PRAYERS

February 18, 2013

Recently, a colleague endured the unthinkable—she lost her 17-year-old son in a car accident. As a parent I can hardly think of a more unbearable burden than outliving my children.

It is disasters like this that challenge us in our faith; those of us that profess to have it. Even the most devout believer must struggle to explain the dissonance between an omnipotent, caring God and the tragedies that befall us. The ones we don’t bring on ourselves we’ve even nicknamed “acts of God.” It’s akin to, and tied in with, the touted paradox of God’s omniscience and our free will.

Garth Brooks penned, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” To the mother who has lost a child, the sentiment must sound blasphemous. To those of us that have yet to carry such a burden, or who have gotten beyond the open wound of their grief to the forever-aching scar of unremitting loss, it provides hope. But to understand it we must, at least for the sake of argument, accept the concept of an eternal soul.

The atheist/secularist/empiricist will likely bristle at the idea of a soul. It’s odorless, tasteless and colorless. There isn’t a single iota of scientific proof that it exists. Yet it is as essential to the discussion of faith and God as the brain is to the mind. My own belief, in part, stems from the unimaginable complexity revealed to me each day in the study of medicine. Each new discovery, the existence of yet another set of complex interactions between heretofore unknown substances in an unimaginably delicate and precise water ballet in the cytoplasm of our cells, reinforces my faith. Others state that this “anti-entropy” is simply the result of random events occurring over an unfathomably long period of time. We can argue this point until time ends and reach no resolution. Because the only argument is faith.

So, if we hypothesize that the purpose of this worldly existence is to nurture and develop our souls, then the true tragedy resides in its loss, not the life that housed it. The body becomes a vehicle for something much greater, and events occur only to help shape it. Free will, decision-making is inherently necessary, for without it, everything is pointless. You can’t improve something that is already predestined to be what it is. To the empiricist, this argument, and faith, are nothing more than delusions we use to make the unbearable more palatable, immaterially different from primitive superstition. But, be you atheist or agnostic, let’s suspend disbelief for the moment, for the sake of moving this discussion forward, just as we do when we entertain ourselves with an episode of Star Trek or Mission Impossible (which, truth be told, go down less easily than the idea of faith).

I’ve often maintained that in the material world the ideological difference between the left and the right hinges on the former’s crusade for equality of outcomes and the latter’s emphasis on equality of opportunity (and those of you who aren’t visiting for the first time know on which side of that divide I stake my tent). The same could be said of the metaphysical universe: The purpose is to provide each soul with opportunity, giving it what it needs to strive for perfection. He, or She, does so in “mysterious ways,” at least to us, but the decisions are, and must be ours. And, as we demonstrate every day, they are not always the best ones. There can be no guarantee of success. In my “Faith Trek” universe souls return again and again for burnishing, unless they move so far beyond salvation that they must be destroyed. Oblivion, the ultimate tragedy.

The empiricist sees death as oblivion. The (deluded?) faithful define this as destruction of the soul.

Faith is hard to find and even harder to maintain. Some people use religion as the vehicle. Secularists often confuse religion, and the missteps taken and atrocities committed in its name, with faith. We live in a world where, for many, science has supplanted rather than reinforced the concept of faith. I made the personal decision, for better or worse, to abandon organized religion many years ago. But I never abandoned faith.

Life without it is a journey toward oblivion.

RELIGION AND CULTISM

November 6, 2012

Some, perhaps a great deal, of the moral confusion that plagues our culture relates to the failure to recognize the distinction between religion and cultism.

With the expansion of our knowledge base and the rapid progression of technology, a growing segment of the world views belief in an omnipotent and omniscient God as tantamount to superstition. Those most militant cite the abuses in the name of religion committed by the Christians through the Crusades during the Middle Ages and the atrocities in the name of Allah in modern times as evidence of the malignant nature of spiritual belief. John Lennon famously penned the words “imagine no religion” in this vein. In the utopia he imagined, there was no need for religion, because everyone had achieved the state of enlightenment embodied in the basic moral law, “Do unto others,” the underpinning of all mainstream religions.

But the real world is not a utopia. It is a battle of good versus evil. There are those that still cringe at this concept as primitive; no one is evil, only corrupted by society, or bad parenting, or circumstances beyond human control. While well-intentioned, those who subscribe to this ideology will forever be hobbled in the fight. They are also the ones most likely to be confused by the smokescreen the Islamists rely on to achieve their ends.

Religion is only a tool, a path. And there are many. Abuses in its name by those who stray from the path, even so-called leaders of the faith, can only invalidate it if the rank-and-file practitioners refuse to publicly and loudly disown the behavior. Religion is a set of ideas and ideals. Humans are, well, human.

Cultism is also a path—to a belief in God’s diametric opposite. What better way to confuse the righteous and gentle of heart than to use the same terms such as “God” or “Allah” in the practice of satanic beliefs? Moral relativists have an especially hard time standing against this, as devotion is viewed as monolithic. Who is to define good or evil?

Therein lies the core of the issue: Islamism is a cult that cloaks itself in the righteousness of religion. Devoted Muslims in the “Do unto other” sect far outnumber the terrorists, but we can argue all day and get nowhere as to whether the insurgents comprise 3 percent, 15 percent or more of the faithful, because there is no way to do a census. Nor can we see into a person’s heart to learn how many of those who define themselves as Muslims support the cultists without ever acting on their twisted beliefs. Some people use the contradicting passages of the Koran to paint all practitioners with the same brush, but any thinking individual sees through this. What casts a pall over the religion is a perception by many of us on the outside that condemnation of the extremism in many international quarters has been muted. Fear of retribution is understandable, but only a commitment from those inside the faith can prevent this evil from turning into a global bloodbath that will make World War II look like a scrap between a couple of two-year-olds.

Edmund Burke proclaimed, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” Who could say it any better?

SO SORRY…

March 5, 2012

About a week ago, U.S. forces burned a cache of desecrated Korans. As anyone with even a passing knowledge of world affairs knows, this would and did result in a deadly backlash, so qualifying this as a bonehead move understates the issue.

That being said, it’s unfortunate but predictable that the apologies that followed took the form they did. They traveled up the chain of command to the president himself. It did not stop the violence, and whether it even mitigated it is a debatable point. Why? Because we have chosen to willfully ignore some salient facts about the Muslim community.

First, it’s necessary to define terms. I choose to call violent jihadists Islamists rather than Muslims, because it affords clarity. By billing themselves as religious Muslims, these fanatics know they hamstring their Western enemies by cloaking themselves in the armor of religion. While Americans have become more secular and have little concern about tossing barbs in the direction of peaceful Christians (who may hunker down with their guns and bibles but rarely use the former in defense of the latter), a respect for freedom of worship still forms a cornerstone of our society. Islamists can cite a belief in Allah as the motivating force for their egregious behavior. For them, the Koran burning afforded them the opportunity to fan the flames of anti-Western sentiment and motivate their true believers into action. I suspect the leaders regarded our stupidity with glee rather than outrage. Our apology to the Muslim community was abject, and nonconfrontational. A more appropriate response from our generals and president might have been to apologize, explain the circumstances that led to the burning, promise to take appropriate action to assure no recurrence, and add in no uncertain terms that any violence on the part of radical fundamentalists would be unacceptable and dealt with in kind. However, because we expect their violent behavior even though we find it unacceptable,  and abhor senseless killing, it triggers the natural human reaction to appease. It might even be analogized to the Stockholm syndrome, where the kidnap victim begins to identify with the captor. Since the administration and much of society does not distinguish the Islamist from the Muslim, at least in the religious sense, we are, in essence, held captive.

Defining jihadists as Islamists allows us to see them clearly for what they are: a satanic cult. Allah in the context of Islamism is Satan, and all moral confusion evaporates. Islamists are Nazis using the cover of religion, and the confusion it breeds, to recruit fanatics and confound their enemies. With this distinction in place, those Muslims that don’t subscribe to Sharia law and this dark transformation of the Muslim religion can be addressed independently.

This approach has the added benefit of allowing us to more starkly define the state of the Muslim society. I stated above that we often fail to distinguish the Islamist from the Muslim in terms of their theology, and I lay this at the feet of the Muslims themselves. In my opinion, the backlash from that community has been relatively muted. There have been isolated voices of protest, but a concerted international effort on the part of Muslims has not materialized. In arguing this point with a Muslim colleague here in the U.S., the response I received was one of surprise that someone with my background could be so ill-informed and bigoted. This gentleman, who I believe to be free of anti-Semitism or anti-Christian sentiment, fears that the entire Muslim community will be whitewashed with the same negative brush and marginalized (at best) by bigotry. He was unreceptive to the argument that the outrage that would pour forth from the Christian or Jewish communities if similar acts of terrorism were committed in their names was sadly lacking from the international Muslim community. I’m proud that the incidence of violence against Muslim-Americans has been low, but I share his concerns that Muslim citizens of good character will face the specter of conscious or subconscious prejudice by association on the part of non-Muslims.

It’s exactly this association that is at the core of the problem. What remains unclear to me, and likely to many Americans, is to what extent the absence of a strident Muslim voice of protest is born of fear of reprisal or silent approbation of the jihadists’ efforts. Perhaps this uncertainty is what brands me as a bigot in my Muslim colleague’s eyes. He insists that those with radical beliefs comprise only a small percentage of the Muslim community. While I believe this to be true in this nation, I don’t know what the status is in the international community.

The bottom line is that we cannot win “the war on terror” without the active support of Muslims themselves against the Islamists. There are those that argue that the Koran sanctions the jihadists’ program of violence, and cite passages to prove their point. Although I’m not a religious scholar, in a tome as complex as the Koran with often opposing and contradictory entries, using this argument to assume we know the mind of the individual is fraught with hazard. Rather, we must judge the actions of the people.  Within the ranks of the Muslim community fear must be overcome and battle lines publicly drawn to marginalize and ultimately excise the threat, and prevent the Muslim religion from being hijacked in the service of their evil cause. Dark Islam cannot flourish in a soil poisoned to their beliefs.

Does this make me a bigot? I’ll leave you to decide. In the meantime, I’d like to say I’m sorry, but….

GETTING DOWN TO BEDROCK

October 24, 2011

When analyzing the fetid morass we call the economy I found it useful, as I did for the health care system, to try to look for root causes. Fix them, and you have a chance at healing the system; ignore them, and you endlessly kick the can down the road until the road ends. And it always ends. But overly large government, derivatives, Wall Street corruption, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t true root causes. The foundation underlying all these travesties is more basic and can be summed up in one word: morality.

Our Founding Fathers recognized that without basically good people seeking to do good things, no system could survive. For them, religion was the underpinning of a just society and in the Declaration of Independence declared that we are endowed by our “Creator” with inalienable rights. They held a higher power above government. Still, they had the wisdom to recognize the importance of keeping the machinery of government secular so that freedom of worship was preserved. While there are moral people that are not religious, I believe that the religion and the belief in a higher power are the greatest force for keeping in check the baser instincts of a large number of people in this world. Atheists will cite the atrocities committed throughout human history in the name of God and religion as evidence of the fallacy of my assertion. Their argument, to me, has always been inherently flawed. Giving a Satanic cult the cloak of religion and calling a Satanic entity God had always been a way of confusing otherwise sensible people. In the Middle Ages it was a bastardization of Catholicism; today it is Islamic fundamentalism masquerading as the Muslim faith. The existence of these corruptions does not diminish the value of a God-based faith that truly lives by the standard of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So why am I venturing into the charged and hazy realm of the metaphysical? No system, even one as good as a republic, can survive the weight of rampant immorality without being crushed. It’s also clear that you can’t legislate morality. We can make it more difficult for bad people to do bad things, assuming those miscreants haven’t corrupted the very guardians whose job it is to stop them, but bad has a disconcerting way of resurfacing in innovative ways if there aren’t enough good folks around to rise up and stop it.

The bottom line is we need a resurgence of the values that made us great in the first place—values instilled by family, community, and, in most cases, religion. If a non-bible-thumping, secular guy like me can see this, hopefully others can too.

Next: What’s coming