Religion is Like a Penis

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I couldn’t help myself when my dad passed this along. The Zen of South Park just seemed like the perfect place for it.

The book is almost done. It’s been “sitting in a drawer” for a while, but it wants to come out and be finished. Where does one find the time to finish when life seems to have moved on?

Quran Read-A-Long: Al-‘Imran 55-63 Insists on Jesus’ Humanity, Not His Divinity

Verse 55 is interesting for the different ways it would be interpreted by whomever is reading it. For instance, Christians would read this and assume that it is an outright praise of their religion and a guarantee that they are going to heaven. Why? Because it says that those who follow Jesus are placed above denying the truth. However, Muslims would read this and understand that Jesus was not the son of God and so Christians who believed in such things (taken a step further, the Trinity) would be wrong in their beliefs. Though I suppose the verse doesn’t really guarantee much other than a place above those who deny the truth (disbelievers?) – and honestly, is being above disbelievers really anything to be thrilled about? That just means that you’re not a disbeliever. Hmm. This is an interesting verse but I don’t think I’ve really cracked what it has to offer. What do you think?

I like the affirmation of the value of good works in verse 57. I’ve always found that to be a very important concept – as opposed to say faith or especially grace – because it is good works that make the world go round, no matter your religion, beliefs or anything else. We’re all people and we all deserve each others’ help and respect.

Boy are verses 58-60 the ultimate renunciation of a central Christian creed: namely, that Jesus is not human (at least not human only) but actually God. The Quran is making a real point of denying Christian beliefs about Jesus because Islam is monotheistic in the true sense of the word; Muslims cannot accept (reasonably so) the notion that Jesus – whom Islam considers a prophet like the others – is actually God . . . and simultaneously the son of God. NO! The Quran makes clear in three verses: Jesus was like Adam – human and from dust.

Verse 61 proposes an interesting way of resolving the dispute about Jesus’ divinity: get everybody together and then pray for a curse on whomever is wrong. Asad writes this about the actual confrontation regarding this verse:

“According to all the reliable authorities, verses 59-63 of this surah were revealed in the year 10 H., on the occasion of a dispute between the Prophet and a deputation of the Christians of Najran who, like all other Christians, maintained that Jesus was “the son of God” and, therefore, God incarnate. Although they refused the “trial through prayer” (mubahalah) proposed to them by the Prophet, the latter accorded to them a treaty guaranteeing all their civic rights and the free exercise of their religion.”

What do you think about these verses? Can you help me illuminate some of their meaning better?

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Al-’Imran 55-63

55. Lo! God said: “O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me, and cleanse thee of [the presence of] those who are bent on denying the truth; and I shall place those who follow thee [far] above those who are bent on denying the truth, unto the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ. 56. “And as for those who are bent on denying the truth, I shall cause them to suffer a suffering severe in this world and in the life to come, and they shall have none to succour them; 57. whereas unto those who attain to faith and do good works He will grant their reward in full: for God does not love evildoers.” 58. THIS MESSAGE do We convey unto thee, and this tiding full of wisdom: 59. Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, “Be” – and he is. 60 [This is] the truth from thy Sustainer; be not, then, among the doubters! 61. And if anyone should argue with thee about this [truth] after all the knowledge that has come unto thee, say: “Come! Let us summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves; and then let us pray [together] humbly and ardently, and let us invoke God’s curse upon those [of us] who are telling a lie.” 62. Behold, this is indeed the truth of the matter, and there is no deity whatever save God; and, verily, God – He alone – is almighty, truly wise. 63 And if they turn away [from this truth] – behold, God has full knowledge of the spreaders of corruption.

Zen Talk: Getting What We Need to Get What We Need

“When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.” – Fen-Yang

I love the extremes provided in this quote, considering that it comes from a religion and school of thought so steeped in moderation. But in essence, isn’t it telling us the value of moderation?

In the first place, these aren’t extremes. They are steps one shy of extremes. That is, when a thousand books of scripture are not enough, we have not reached the extreme we desire. Will more do it? Similarly, when we have achieved understanding, one word is too much, but the extreme – not a single word – is that actually going to be the right path?

In short, no words and all the words are never the solutions because in a certain mental state, neither has the value we need it to have. Scripture is always there, but understanding is not about the scripture. It is about us – what is within us. When we are deluded and full of doubt we have nothing, but when we understand we need nothing. But we always know something in either state and can’t forget to separate the two – knowledge and understanding – in order to achieve the latter and appreciate the former.

When we have buried ourselves in our books of faith and still struggle, it is important to remember that the struggle is within us and not about the knowledge and the book and the faith and the scripture. Likewise, when we have achieved understanding with calm and certitude we cannot neglect that which now has value to offer us because we are not looking to it for things that are not about it. We have looked to ourselves and found what we needed.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think about?

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Fun with the Bible: Obama’s Inauguration Ceremonies, Religion and the Bible

Yes, it is a little late for such an article seeing as how we’ve been enjoying our new president (who would have thought we could ever say “enjoy” and “president” in the same positive sentence?) for nearly two weeks now, but as it happens, I recently got a column in a new upstart paper called the Nashville Free Press. It’s a spin-off from the radio station, Radio Free Nashville, which is a sensational non-profit station dedicated to discussing matters that the mainstream media ignores. A particular favorite of mine is the Health at Every Size show with Dr. Peggy Elam (8 a.m. Pacific Time every Monday). You can listen to any of their shows on the web through their website.

In any case, the leaders of that wonderful endeavor just started a newspaper dedicated to similar principles: bringing people the news that mainstream media feels comfortable ignoring. And as it happens, yours truly has a column in this new paper called No Holier Than Thou. The link is in the blogroll to the right under My Sites –>

Please feel free to check it out whenever you like. Along those lines, for this week’s Fun with the Bible post I’m going to point you in that direction. Click HERE to read up on the place of religion, God and the Bible in the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. You can return here to leave comments on the article and your thoughts about religion in the Inauguration.

Hope you enjoy!

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“All About Mormons” (712) Is South Park’s Explanation of Joseph Smith and Mormonism

I know that on a blog called The Zen of South Park, a blog dedicated to a book on religion and South Park, you would expect a pretty long post on South Park‘s episode about Mormonism. But you’re not going to get it.

This episode is incredible, relatively accurate and an amazing portrayal of Mormonism for a few reasons that I will list succinctly.

1. It totally calls out the bullshit story.

2. It doesn’t actually judge Mormonism’s quality based on it’s bullshit story as evidenced by the kind behavior of the Harrison family and this speech at the end by Gary:

“Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”

3. A religion is judged based on the quality of the religion to its adherents, not the veracity of its story. Mormonism makes it out on the good side of this dividing line during this episode.

What did you think of this episode? Are you Mormon? Can you shed a little light on the accuracy of the story as believed by Mormons for us?

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Religion in the News: Monks Brawl at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Where Jesus was Supposedly Crucified

As many of you know, I used to live in Jerusalem. I did my masters at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. One of my favorite places to visit in the city, and one of my absolute favorite to bring visitors, was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was such a fascinating place with so many cubbies to explore and so much history on top of myth. Truly, it was a special place whether or not you believe that Jesus was crucified, laid and entombed there.

However, as history would have it, six different Christian denominations have control over various parts of the Church and since a treaty in the latter half of the 19th century, not a single element of the status quo of the church is allowed to be changed, for fear of a resumption of the often violent disputes that used to erupt there. Though squabbling is still common amongst the monks of the controlling denominations, there are only rarely outbreaks of violence.

As it happens, one of those outbreaks was earlier this week. Armenian monks trying to celebrate a festival commemorating the discovery of the cross Jesus was supposedly crucified on and Greek Orthodox monks who wouldn’t leave a certain space for fear of losing control over it, got into a violent scuffle where fists and anything moveable were thrown.

Now people, this is a little ridiculous. Is that what Jesus would want? Personally, I’ve always felt that Jesus would want everyone to leave him alone and stop bringing him into their disputes but in the meantime I’m pretty sure that Jesus would actually prefer that nobody fight over such stupid things. And this is freaking stupid.

Get a grip people. Set a frickin’ example.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an amazing place and things like that just ruin the atmosphere.

Have you ever been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? Tell us about your experience.

Want to read another post on the Church that includes pictures and more detailed history? Click HERE.

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Religion in the News: Will Atheism Be Advertised on London Buses?

The Situation

The British Humanist Association has decided to run advertisements on buses that say, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” After raising more money than they expected for this endeavor, they may even get some in-bus ads going. Richard Dawkins, world renowned atheist and author of The God Delusion has supported the group.

The idea, the group claims, is to make people think. Religious posters often adorn the sides of buses, and no one gives it a second thought as these religious groups are given liberties like tax breaks and the right to never be offended and more. This group seeks to put a stop to that free ride. At the very least, they hope to make people smile and think.

Compared to the many advertisements threatening eternal damnation or salvation through Jesus, the BHA hopes that its posters will be a breath of fresh air for commuters and locals. Some local religious figures made appreciative comments about the campaign because it encourages people to engage in deep and important questions about life.

My Thoughts

On the one hand, this seems antagonistic to me – trying to get people riled up about their beliefs. On the other hand, I love riling people up about their beliefs. It’s true, religious people do think they’ve earned the right not to be offended and it’s true that they’re allowed to preach at everyone else all the time and we are subject to their nonsense way too often. Just the other day I couldn’t get through a hoard of Scientologists without taking their stupid and nonsensical flier.

Putting posters up like this could make people think because many do worry too much about the next life and God and salvation and all that jazz to live enjoyable, meaningful lives here. Not all religious people, mind you, but there are enough to make this a valid comment.

Funny enough, England seems like a silly place to do this. England has one of the least religious populations and believers in God of nearly any country in the world. It seems like this is something better suited for a generally devout country (or part of it), like middle America. I’d like to see somebody try that here. But hey, I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

What do you think? Do you like the sentiment behind the posters or do you think it’s unnecessarily antagonistic? Do you think that religion deserves the free ride it’s on?

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