Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prime Directive

This morning I head out for my daily five-mile walk with God. About 3.0 miles in I see a huge turtle walking along a concrete path under a roadway. The path links two sections of the Greenway and Lytle Creek. At this point in my walk I am usually in love with everything, and here is this fat old turtle totally exposed to predators and I am convinced that she (he?) needs my help. My plan is to tap on her shell, and when she withdraws inside, to pick her up and carry her to the water on the side toward which she is walking.

This is my version of a boy scout helping an old lady to cross a street.

This act of pure love for my fellow manifestation of the Divine Mother was met with a vicious turn: the turtle attacked me! This huge mouth opened wide and the turtle lunged at me. True it took her an hour to turn around and do this, but it was shocking nonetheless.

Anyway, I backed off, apologized for the interruption, and walked on by. This was a teaching moment, and the tortoise taught me the difference between Rabbis Hillel and Jesus versions of the Golden Rule.

Hillel taught, “Don’t do unto others what you do not want others to do to you.” Jesus taught, “Do unto others what you would want done unto you.” I assumed that I would like someone to pick me up and move me along my path, and therefore so would my turtle friend. But when I think about it, I wouldn’t like this at all.

Just imagine: you are walking along enjoying the fall foliage (or dying leaves, depending on your mood), and suddenly some giant reaches down, grabs you around the waist, and carries you along dangling in mid-air. Doesn’t sound so good. Yet this is precisely what I wanted to do with the turtle.

Next time I see a turtle ambling along I will just let her be, and if she is attacked by some carnivore along the way and brutally torn to pieces and eaten, I will simply smile and say, “Serves you right for trying to bite me, you reptilian brained moron.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I am a bigot. At least by NPR standards. NPR fired Juan Williams yesterday for admitting that when he boards an airplane with Muslims dressed in Muslim garb he feels a twinge of concern. Not because he believes all Muslims are terrorists (he doesn’t) or because he believes that all terrorists are Muslims (he doesn’t). He feels what he feels because (1) we can’t control our feelings and (2) Muslim shoes and underwear tend to explode. This has nothing to do with the people wearing those shoes and underwear, and everything to do with the quality of Muslim shoe and underwear manufacturing. Just like Toyota cars used to race off on their own regardless of the driver’s will, so, as I understand it, Muslim made underwear tends to explode at certain altitudes. It’s one thing to explode into your underwear—that’s what it’s for, and quite another to have your underwear explode into you. So, Juan, I get it.

And if Juan Williams, perhaps the lone liberal voice on Fox News, is a bigot, then so am I. Let me honest about my feelings.

Like Juan, I too am leery of Muslim made underwear. But that’s not all. I don’t want to fly with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, either. I’ve seen these people walking up and down the aisle asking to speak to their fellow passengers about their religion, and I don’t want to be hassled.

Similarly, I inquire into the religious beliefs of my pilot and co-pilot. If they are Rapture-ready Christians, I don’t want to fly with them. Give me a Jew, Muslim, or Catholic over an evangelical Protestant any day. At least I know we won’t crash because God took the pilot and co-pilot up to heaven and allowed the rest of us to die.

I am also nervous when I see Hasidic Jews on the plane lest they conscript me into a mid-air prayer service. And, if I were a Palestinian, I would be nervous about any Jew on the plane lest they try and spread out from their seat into my seat claiming that their great great great great great great great great grandparents sat in that those seats a long time ago and so it is rightfully their seat today.

Atheists too are a problem for me. What if we are going to crash and we have to call on God to save us, and maybe God is Jewish and requires a quorum of ten Jewish men to listen to our prayer and all we have are nine Jewish guys and an Atheist, and so we all die because this idiot can’t go along to get along.

I don’t want hip-hop Blacks on my plane either because they might start singing and making that spitting sound and messing up my Pringles.

And fat people. I don’t want to sit next to fat people because they ooze over into my space.

People with babies are on my no-fly list as well. I don’t want to sit next to some screaming baby, and insist that all parents drug their children into a stupor so I don’t have to buy Bose noise reduction headphones just to keep from getting a migraine.

So, Juan, I’m with you. And if I had a job at NPR I would expect them to fire me as well. Because, hey, who wants commentators to be honest?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Islam is a Religion

Islam is a religion. It’s true. The United States Department of Justice has said so, and it is the banner headline of this morning’s Daily News Journal here in Murfreesboro. This may not be news to you, but it is to thousands of my neighbors, and, to be quite frank, I was beginning to wonder about this myself.

I mean a religion is supposed to be about your relationship with God, and Allah isn’t Jesus, so Allah isn’t God. And a religion is supposed to have a holy book, but the Qur’an isn’t the Bible so the Qur’an isn’t a holy book. That’s why we can burn the Qur’an and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” but not the Bible. And Jesus said it is what comes out of your mouth not what goes into it that counts (Matthew 15:17-18), so any religion that restricts what foods you can eat, isn’t a religion. [Editor’s note: I once heard a gay Christian cite this text to suggest Jesus was in favor of oral sex. Really.]

And then there is the issue of Sharia. What kind of religion is it that wants to dictate to people how they should live? You don’t see Christianity doing that, do you? And what about the idea that Islam is going to fly its flag over the White House and the entire world? What kind of religion wants the whole world to be converted to its way of life? Why that would mean sending missionaries to every country of the world to preach the Gospel! Can you imagine that?

Clearly, if Islam is a religion, it is a religion the likes of which you haven’t seen in this country since the last time you watched the 700 Club. But, look, this is still a free country, even though it is governed by Red Fascist Nazis who are running FEMA concentration camps across the land. I heard that the FEMA camps are actually renting space from the Islamic terror training camps also spread across this country, which proves the link between our so-called President and terrorists of the so-called religion of Islam.

And what does it mean that the Obama Justice Department declares Islam a religion when it refuses to acknowledge that the United States of America is a Christian country? It means that the government is in cahoots with the Muslims against the Christians, that’s what. So I call upon all of you who are reading this to call the Justice Department and demand that they issue a list of acceptable religions in the United States, and when they turn down your request even though they just declared Islam a religion you will know that the United States of America recognizes only one religion and that is the religion of Islam.

Remember that when you go to the polls on November 2nd and they ask you to dip your right pointer finger into a jar of purple ink to prove you are a Muslim. I’m not making this up. I've been told that the confirmation button on the electronic voting booth shoots purple ink onto your finger when you push it. You won’t see it because it only shows up under black light, and even then only in FEMA concentrations camps. But believe me, it is there.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hand to God

If you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I support the expansion of the Islamic Center in my town of Murfreesboro, TN. You also know that I think much of the paranoia around Islam and Muslims is just that: paranoia. But just because your paranoid doesn’t mean you aren’t being followed.

Case in point: The Times of India reported on Monday, July 5, 2010, that Professor T. J. Joseph a lecturer at Newman College in Thodupuzha in Idukki district was dragged from his car and had his right hand chopped off by Muslim fanatics. His crime? He allegedly wrote a question on an exam that was considered by some to be derogatory of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Now I teach Islam at MTSU. And while I try to be respectful off all the religions we cover, the fact is I have a wicked sense of humor, and often point out the more absurd facets of religion and invite comment by my students. I am also an academic and assume that the Qur’an (along with all other holy books) is the product of human beings not gods. I do not single out any one religion for ridicule, and certainly feel no antipathy toward Islam or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But blasphemy is in the mind of the beholder, and there is no reason to doubt that if I lived in (or could find on a map) Thodupuzha in Idukki district my right hand too would be lopped off by some Muslim maniac.

This incident leads me to two conclusions. First, if ever invited to teach Islam at Newman College in Thodupuzha in Indian’s Idukki district, I should immediately and emphatically decline. Second, given my nature and teaching style, I should work hard at being more ambidextrous.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Grand Design

Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, makes God irrelevant to creation. “It is not necessary to invoke God to … get the universe going.” All you need, he says, is gravity. He is not the first to do this, and like the others he has unleashed a torrent of protesters.

What Dr. Hawking and his opponents have in common is the notion that God, whatever God may be, is something outside the process of creation. Hawking is saying there is no need for anything outside the process, and hence there is no need for God. His opponents say there is such a need, and therefore a need for God.

My problem with both arguments is the very definition of God as someone or something outside the system. For me God is the system.

But is this merely a matter of semantics? Am I really an atheist with a linguistic tic that has me say “God” over and over again?

Well, I am an atheist if by “theist” you mean someone who believes God is a person outside creation who made and manages the world. I just cannot believe such a being exists. And, like Spinoza, I could use alternative words for God, though I prefer Reality to his Natura (Nature). God is reality, the source and substance of all that was, is, and will be.

When Hawking says that the universe creates itself out of nothing he is using everyday language in a unique way. “Nothing” for him is intrinsically creative. It is, grammar aside, not a noun but a verb. This is how I understand God as well. And what the Hebrew Bible seems to hint at when it reveals God’s name as YHVH, a variant of the Hebrew verb “to be,” rather than its English rendering: the noun, “Lord.”

People want to know how creation got started. I suggest that it never stopped. The universe is a dance of on and off; the multiverse that Hawking posits all the more so. God is not just on or off, but both on and off and the flow from one to the other over and over again.

Of course you can’t pray to my God, and my God doesn’t back sports teams, politicians, specific legislation, or religions, so my God may be of no use to you. I understand that. My God is of no use to anyone. A god you can use is an idol.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Religion & Science, Marriage Made in Hell?

Jerry Coyne, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, argues in yesterday’s USA TODAY that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. I disagree.

Good science, as Dr. Coyne says, is rooted in reason and evidence, and at home with doubt and testing. I suggest the same is true of good religion. Good science uses math and machines to investigate reality, good religion uses contemplative disciplines such as meditation, imagination, literature, art, and music to do the same.

Good science should be used by good religion to free itself from bogus notions about reality: the sun revolving around the earth, creation being only 10,000 years old, etc; and bogus history: there is no evidence for the Jews’ enslavement in and exodus from Egypt, for example. Free from the burden of affirming what is bogus, good religion can then use the tools of comparative literature and mythology and psychology to find the wisdom articulated in the myths it used to mistake for fact. Good science frees good religion from irrationality.

Of course Dr. Coyne isn’t talking about religion and science in this way. He is pitting the worst of religion (people killing other people over inane dogma), against the best of science: open minded rational seekers of truth. But science doesn’t work that way. New ideas are not welcomed in scientific establishments any more than they are in religious ones. True, scientists don’t kill one another over their findings, but they do seek to kill one another’s careers and funding.

Dr. Coyne sums matters us this way: “In religion faith is a virtue; in science it’s a vice.” Nonsense. First of all he is mistaking “faith” for “belief.” Good religion and good science are both rooted in the faith that the universe can be understood and navigated wisely and well. And just as religion has faith in its contemplative methodologies, so science has faith in the scientific method and reason. What good science and good religion both reject are dogmatic beliefs. Bad science and bad religion, on the other hand, revel in dogmatism.

Dr. Coyne reduces religion to superstition. To the extent that religions are tied to superstitions and demonstrable falsehoods, they should free itself from these. That is how science can benefit religion. But the opposite is also true: the extent to which science is blind to realities uncovered by contemplative practice, or closed to the notion that meaning and value can be found in the human condition, or that the human condition is as much rooted in narrative as in physics, science needs to open its eyes.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Should I be upset that 18% of my fellow Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim? I’m not sure. You see according to a Gallup Poll, 18% of Americans also believe that the sun revolves around the earth rather than the earth revolving around the sun. And a Baylor Religion Survey shows that 18% of Americans expect scientists will prove the existence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. And a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration poll shows that 18% of Americans don’t wear their seatbelts when driving. So 18% may just be a standard for dumbness in America.

Of course it may be a standard for intelligence as well. The First Amendment Center says that only 18% of Americans know that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment; and a Nature magazine survey says that only 18% of Americans take global warming seriously; and another Gallup poll says that only 18% of Americans believe in the Theory of Evolution.

What am I to make of these numbers? Should I be upset by the ignorance of 18% of Americans or proud of the intelligence of another 18%? I suspect 18% of Americans say I should, and 18% say I shouldn’t. What do you think?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Red Sex?

Public Policy Poling, a Democrat–affiliated polling firm, found that only 4% of Republicans support building a mosque near Ground Zero while over five times that number support building a strip club at the same location. Of course some liberal commie leftists will say this shows how Islamophobic Republicans are, but that is a misreading of the numbers. The real story is that 79% do not support a strip club. Republicans aren’t just Islamophobic, they are anti-sex.

It gets worse. The number jumps to 84% if Republicans are asked whether they oppose an Islamic strip club in the area of Ground Zero. 84% of Republicans don’t want to see naked Muslim women, and yet most Republicans seem to be opposed to the head to toe covering of Islamic women. Which is it? Do you want Muslim women naked or clothed?

The confusion suggests that the real point is this: Republicans don’t want to be around Muslim women, naked or clothed. Again, the leftist crowd will argue that this reflects the fact that so many Republicans are closeted gay men, but this discounts the lesbian faction within the Republican party, and reflects sexism on the part of liberals.

So let’s be fair: Republicans like sex but only between married heterosexual couples who are not Muslims. Is this right? To tell you the truth, I am getting confused. Luckily there is already a strip club near Ground Zero called Pussycat Lounge, so there is no need to build another one, especially since Republicans won’t frequent the place (they seem to prefer Lesbian Bondage Bars).

Monday, October 04, 2010

I'm Stewish

I’m a lot like Stewart. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. The Jew. People a lot like Stewart control the news media. Or so says Rick Sanchez who is a lot like Fidel Castro, and who was fired from CNN after letting the katz out of the bag that the media is controlled by people of the Stewish persuasion.

Do Stews control the media? No, but we used to. Now it’s controlled by some Australian guy. In Bible times we dominated the media which was the Bible and only Jews could write for it. When we moved from print to movies we dominated that as well, but we were careful to hire goyim like Charlton Heston to play all the best Stewish roles. In the Internet age we have Mark Zuckerberg creator of Facebook (his original name for it was Sefer Punim), and Michael Dell (his father was an orthodontist), but Steve Jobs and Bill Gates aren’t Stews so our dominance is over.

Rick also said Jon was a bigot. I have no evidence for or against such a claim, but I admit that I’m a bigot. I hate bigoted people. That means I am a self-hating Stew, but many Stewish people are.

Should Rick Sanchez have been fired for outing the news media as controlled by the Stews? No. Rick should have been fired because his show sucks. Which it does.

Will Rick be back with a new show on a new network that is Stew-free? I bet that Australian guy is calling him right— Wait a minute! This just in: Rupert Murdoch, the Australian guy, is Stewish! His mum’s mum, Marie Grace de Lancey Forth had a mum, Caroline Jemina (nee Sherson) who was Stewish. That means that according to Stewish Law and anti-Semitic paranoia Rupert Murdoch is Stewish!!!!! Rick is right!!!!!

His show still sucks, but Rick is right.