Was Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Israel Worth It

Check out my latest article in the Nashville Free Press: The Pope’s Visit to Israel – Was It Worth It?

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The Art of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously For the Public Good

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Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts.

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 229- 231 Talks of Divorce Laws

It’s nice to see healthy divorce laws in a religion, just as it was nice last week to discuss healthy sexual laws within a religion. I would reiterate that living in a post-Puritanical culture means that divorce was only legal because people had “irreconcilable differences” within the past 50 years. And for such high divorce rates, we’re not talking about a country that handles marriage particularly well – nor its dissolution. In Catholicism, it’s still not kosher, so to speak, to get divorced, and I think it’s important that the Quran has such a healthy attitude towards the whole affair.

When it says in 230 that “you are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives” does it simply mean that you can’t take away everything and leave – you have to leave her with a means of supporting herself (i.e. alimony, in a sense)?

What are these limits set by God that are spoken of? Are they how many times you can divorce and get back together (two acceptable, three not). Interesting that a marriage can be legal again between a man and a woman once that woman has married another man. That is a lot of back and forth. How common is this situation? It seems like one that would be far less common in the early years of Islam (though the very existence of this verse contradicts that, I think) and far more useful in modern Islamic societies today (I don’t pass a cultural value with the word modern – I simply mean that the mobility of today’s life, the lack of more local tribal affiliations, the comparative plethora of options make divorce and husband-hopping a more plausible situation).

Thoughts about these verses and their historical context and modern application would be most appreciated. All other comments welcome as well!

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The Cow 229-231

230. Divorce is (revocable) two times (after pronouncement), after which (there are two ways open for husbands), either (to) keep (the wives) honorably, or part with them in a decent way. You are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives, unless both of you fear that you would not be able to keep within the limits set by God. If you fear you cannot maintain the bounds fixed by God, there will be no blame on either if the woman redeems herself. Do not exceed the limits of God, for those who exceed the bounds set by God are transgressors. 231. If a man divorces her again (a third time), she becomes unlawful for him (and he cannot remarry her) until she has married another man. Then if he divorces her there is no harm if the two unite again if they think they will keep within the bounds set by God and made clear for those who understand. 232. When you have divorced your wives, and they have reached the end of the period of waiting, then keep them honorably (by revoking the divorce), or let them go with honor, and do not detain them with the intent of harassing lest you should transgress. He who does so will wrong himself. Do not mock the decrees of God, and remember the favors God has bestowed on you, and revealed to you the Book and the Law to warn you of the consequences of doing wrong. Have fear of God, and remember, God is cognizant of everything.

Korn Stops Father Maxi From Ruining Halloween in South Episode 312, “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Mystery”

I absolutely love this episode of South Park. Not only is it about Halloween and guest-stars Korn, but it’s about the Occult and the conception of religious people about Halloween.

Father Maxi hates Halloween and doesn’t want anyone to celebrate it. He calls it the most unholy of holidays which is an inherently contradictory statement because holiday=holy day so he said it’s an unholy holy day. Dumbass. He should have said something like, “It’s an unholy celebration.”

The priest also calls Halloween an abomination of God. Give me a break and get over yourself, Father Maxi.

I love that this episode fleshes out the tension between the religious establishment and things that supposedly concern the Occult or devil-worship. No, most of us don’t ever have to deal with these issues on the day to day, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that numerous children don’t get to celebrate and enjoy Halloween and candy because their parents are religious psychopaths.

The episode has a wonderful conclusion and offers some great lessons.

What did you think?

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Zen Talk: The Teaching of the Enlightened

“Not to do any evils, to accomplish good, to purify one’s own mind – this is the teaching of the enlightened.”

This quote by Buddha is a nice one, but probably one of the more difficult to accomplish.

Don’t do evil. Okay, I might be able to handle that. Of course, establishing where the line for evil is is important. A devout Catholic might tell you that contraception is evil. But is it really? Setting aside that complicated line, I think I could manage to avoid evil.

Do good. Alright, similar problem, but I even think I can manage that … if I concentrate really hard, become a total bore and really think about everything. Eventually, I think doing good would become rote and possible, and then I could start introducing excitement again.

And now the tough part: Purify my mind. Uh, okay. How do I do this? Well, a lifetime of practicing and implementing the teachings of Buddhism, no doubt, but for many of us that’s easier said than done. Fortunately, there are a number of great techniques, starting with Mindfulness, that can help us begin purifying our minds.

Whether you start implementing the first, second or third directives of this quote, best of luck!

What did you think of the quote? What do you do in your life to make sure that you are abiding by these words? Is it hard?

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In “Cripple Fight!” South Park 503, The Boys Help Big Gay Al Stay in Scouts and Timmy and Jimmy Battle for Best Handicapped Kid

What a fun episode. It has everything: battling cripples, gay bashing, child molestation, and more! When Big Gay Al, an excellent Boy Scout leader and good role-model for the South Park children, is kicked out of Scouts for no other reason than being gay, the boys – not interested in being molested by the new Scout leader who everyone thinks is straight – fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get Big Gay Al back into Scouts and reinstated as their leader.

But forcing the Scouts to comply to their belief system, Big Gay Al insists, was wrong:

“Thank you all very much, but I don’t want this.  Look, I appreciate what you kids did, I really do, but this isn’t what I wanted. I’m proud to be gay, and I’m proud to be in a country where I’m free to express myself, but freedom is a two-way street. If I’m free to express myself, then the Scouts have to be free to express themselves too. I know these men; they are good men. They are kind men. They do what they think is best for kids, no matter how wrong we think they might be, it isn’t right for us to force them to think our way. It’s up to us to persuade and help them see the light, not extort them to. Please don’t cut the Scouts’ funding. The Scouts help and have always helped a lot of kids. That’s why I love them. I will continue to persuade them to change their minds, but this is the wrong way to do it.”

Randy Marsh learns the following lesson when it comes to distrusting Big Gay Al and putting the new Scout leader in charge of his son:

“We’ve all learned an important lessons: that just because somebody’s gay doesn’t mean they’re gonna molest children. Straight people do that too.”

On an additional, religious note, we learn in this episode that Father Maxi had sex with a man once. That’s right, the Catholic priest has gay experiences. Interesting, no?

Did you like this episode? What was your favorite part? How about the cripple fight? Do you think gays should be allowed in Scouts and that private organizations should be forced to accept those they don’t want? Why is it okay for a private institution to discriminate based on sexual preference, but not say, a private university?

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“Damien,” episode 108 of South Park is Rife with Theological Jokes and a Battle between Satan and Jesus

When Satan’s son, Damien, comes to South Park to wreak havoc and challenge Jesus to a boxing match with Satan – the ultimate showdown between Good and Evil – you know there’s fun to be had.

I won’t go into all the details here, but I will tell you to watch this episode if you enjoy South Park’s portrayal of religion (and we all know I do). Make sure to keep an eye out for jokes about Jesus and forgiveness, what Jesus actually said in the Bible, what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God, the Catholic priest’s familiarity with Jesus and so much more.

What did you think of this episode? Which theological jokes did you catch?

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