Saturday, June 15, 2013

Religion This Week

I’m sitting in LAX reading the NYTimes. On page A8 there is a snap shot of religion at its worst:

Item A: Salvador Court Denies Abortion to Ailing Woman. A woman with lupus is pregnant and her doctor tells her that carrying the baby to term may well kill her. The court denied her an abortion saying that the life of the mother cannot trump the life of the unborn baby. But wait, there’s more. The mother has another young child to care for at home, so her death will impact not only her unborn baby who will born without a living mother and her already born child who will be left motherless. But wait, there’s more. The unborn baby is missing most of its brain and will not survive once born. So the mother’s life is forfeit for a baby whose life is also forfeit. Is this really a moral dilemma? Is a grown woman equal to a brain dead fetus? Somebody’s God thinks so.

Item B: Israel is moving ahead with plan to draft Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews. The fact that Haredi Jews feel they have no obligation to defend their country while their country is obligated to take care of them, and their non-Haredi cousins are obligated to die to protect them is mindless. Read your Torah, people: God is always ordering the faithful into battle, and while there are exemptions, being religious isn’t one of them.

Item C: The Parliament of Papua New Guinea has just repealed that country’s Sorcery Act that made killing witches ubiquitous and legal. The new law will make the killing of witches a capital offense punishable by death. Will this law stop the murder of witches? Of course not. Why not, because witches are convenient. When we want to eliminate someone all we have to do is claim she is a witch and kill her. It isn’t that people will believe in anything, but that people will believe in anything that allows them to do what they want to do. But at least the government is trying to free itself from its religious fanatics.

Add to these items the never ending slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims, and we have to wonder if religion has anything of value to offer. Sure not all religions do evil today, but this is only because they don’t have the power to do so.

If we wait for people to grow beyond religion, nothing will change. If we work to strip religion of power, we have taken a big step toward positive change.


Denucho Attarian said...

Thanks for the cultural idiot update.

Lindsey Clayton said...

does working to strip religion of its power mean pulling back the curtain as a holy rascal? or are you thinking more serious/legislative-type stuff? maybe both?

Erick Reynolds said...

It appears to me that religion, like politics and science, can be a force for good or evil. It can be too easy to concentrate on one side while ignoring the other. There are religious groups volunteering to nurse the sick, build homes for the poor, and shelter the powerless.

The "power" can be shifted away from people who abuse it by "pulling back the curtain" as mentioned above to expose and challenge hypocrisies and false morality. That is what I enjoy about this blog.

Denucho Attarian said...

The right tool in the wrong hands will produce bad ..... yp agree

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Christians, and Jews alike who follow their Orthodox religious doctrine respectively esteem human life. The artificial distinction made between life inside the womb and life outside the womb is seen as a means of justifying the horrific termination of life so as to suit the convenience of those wishing to enjoy a flippant and irresponsible lifestyle. By defining life as meaningless protoplasm such individuals seek to devalue life so as to justify their position. Every so often a situation arises wherein the debate is proposed in a scenario so horrific with a mother who will surely die and the fetus bereft of an opportunity for a meaningful life so as to make it appear that the answer to the debate is clear and anybody who suggest that such a fetus should live and such a mother should die must surely be a rascal and miscreant. Nonetheless a debate posed in this fashion is fundamentally a dishonest approach as the vast majority of the millions of abortions do not fall within this most dramatic set of circumstances. at the end of the day, referring to those with whom you disagree as morons, idiots, and jerks only adds more heat rather than light to the debate.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

to blame religion on the faults of humans is such a facile and intellectually deficient approach. A knife or gun maybe a tool for good and evil. There is nothing inherently evil in a knife. But it certainly can be used for evil ends such as murder. Religion also is a tool similar to a Knife. Atheistic societies have resulted in the deaths and human catastrophes far greater then those perpetrated by religious authorities through the ages. I speak for example of the Soviet Union under Stalin and China under Mao or Germany under Hitler or Cambodia under Pol Pat. it is the highly imperfect human being that is the issue. Religion may be perverted just as the beneficial use of a knife may be. The arguments posed here are foolish and sophmoric.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...
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Erick Reynolds said...

On the issue of abortion, I

Erick Reynolds said...

On the topic of abortion, I have concluded that the fundamental issue is “Who decides?” Each case is as unique as the individual we each are.
The phrase “justifying the horrific termination of life so as to suit the convenience of those wishing to enjoy a flippant and irresponsible lifestyle” is itself flippant and irresponsible generalization; as if women confronted with the decision don’t have a moral dilemma. Also, “justifying the horrific termination of life” seems to be a common practice after birth for war and heresy and capital punishment, but is an attempt to create a simplistic false moralization in context of abortion, because it gives an illusion of meaning to some to sit in judgment of others with whom they have no relationship or responsibility.

There are three categories of people who have a say in the very unique individual decision to have an abortion:
1) The woman considering having an abortion must try to understand her position in life and her potential relationship with new life.
2) The partner/husband who is willing to try to understand his/her position in life and his/her potential relationship with new life.
3) Any doctor, advisor, relative whose advise or consultation is solicited by the above two parties.

The concern by those supporting abortion rights is not to advocate abortion, but to remove outsiders with false morality, sanctimonious life-missions, or political views from interfering with a very private, personal, and individual decision. Most abortion rights supporters support reducing the need for abortions by better spiritual leadership, better reproduction education, better contraception use, changes in societies that defend misogynist attitudes, reduction in rapes and incest through better investigations and prosecutions.

Many who are horrified by the actions of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man accused of abducting three women and torturing them during a decade of captivity, forget that there are parts of this world were this is considered a normal marital arrangement. Branding all women struggling with the abortion decision as “wishing to enjoy a flippant and irresponsible lifestyle” is almost as antiquated.

Rabbi Rami said...

In response to Lindsey's question, I don't see why religion needs special status any more, but I think the more powerful effort is the way of spiritual culture jamming rather than legislative tinkering.

Somehow we got on to abortion. These comments may refer to the case I mentioned in another post. Mordechai makes some good points, though to claim that Orthodox religionists esteem life is hard to hold given all the killing they do in the name of religion.

As for the evil atheists do--no doubt about that, but they don't excuse their evil in the name of atheism. The atheists non-existent God never commands them to kill people. They have to find other excuses to kill people. There are plenty of excuses. Religion is just one among many.

The issue of religion being perverted is a challenging one. If we look at Torah, New Testament, Qur'an for example we find clear examples of God commanding acts that most of us would consider vile if ordered by mere humans. Is this a perversion of religion? Maybe so. Since I believe all such books are written by people not gods, the people who write them make their gods say what they want them to say in order to excuse whatever it is they want to do.
If we want to say authentic religion is only about justice and compassion (amen to that) and that everything that isn't just and kind is a perversion (amen to that) then lets edit our holy books to reflect what we are saying is true.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

You posit confusion and bewilderment as to how we got on abortion. See "ITEM A" above to relieve yourself of confusion. My comment addressed your intellectual dishonesty in posing the debate in this rare uber-dramatic context designed to obfuscate the debate by contextualizing it in the most extreme manner.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

@Reynolds: "the fundamental issue is who decides".

Shouldn't the fundamental issue be whether life is sacrosanct or not? By framing the issue as "who decides" you bypass entirely the true issue. Because if life is sacrosanct then its violent termination (i.e. murder) cannot be trivially "decided" . Certainly it is inconvenient to address this issue of the sacredness of life because it crimps the lifestyle of those wishing superficial unprotected recreational sex. It is great fun to portray prolife folk as fanatical born again rattlesnake dancers but i would remind you that great souls such as Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Theresa are in this camp.

Erick Reynolds said...

@MBN – In response to your concern of “this rare uber-dramatic context” misses the point that while many choose to see only broad brush judgments of modern women’s attitudes, the rest of us recognize every human experience is unique and should be respected. I doubt you have any real evidence of how rare any abortion experience is.
As the concern of life being sacrosanct, that is an abstraction that seems to have practical application at the convenience of religious leaders. Which part of life is sacrosanct? Apparently not all life, all the time. What is life? The beating of a heart, a brain wave, the soul and spirit, living a life, breathing, following a path, existing? Who chooses what is life and when is it sacrosanct? You?

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Q: "which part of life is sacrosanct"
A: Apparently only yours.

Q: "what is life"
A: when in doubt do not kill.

"The rest of us recognize every human experience is unique and should be respected"

therefore you would agree that the human experience of the baby human fetus is also unique and should be respected. Certainly there can be no respect of the baby human fetus when its skull is crushed and it is suctioned out violently from the womb and discarded like garbage.

Erick Reynolds said...

I agree that the scenario you portray is a last resort in what must be undesirable choices. I agree that such a scenario is just an opposing “rare uber-dramatic context”. Again, I do not advocate abortion. I simply accept my position to not be judgmental of others who may find it necessary for their very personal circumstance, and do not understand those who feel they need to intervene where it is not wanted or needed.

One of the Bible’s least ambiguous commandment is “thou shalt not kill”, but then proceeds to advocate stoning to death violators or putting to death unbelievers. This contradiction includes those who praise the deaths of abortion doctors. It kind of makes the sanctity of life subject to point of view. The different points of view on where to draw the line on the sanctity of life and the choices to be made are dealt with every day by millions individuals, doctors, judges, soldiers, police, and potential mothers around the world. It is hard to make rules that apply hard and fast to all. There is a point when we must respect the mature individual and hope or pray he/she chooses wisely, for they must live with that choice.

I think you and I simply are having two points of view.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

How can abortion be a "last resort" when there are more than 1 million per year on the United States alone? If the choice were "undesirable" there would be no choice to abort. One does not do what one does not desire to do. Hence women who find abortion "undesirable" choose to not kill the human baby fetus. Those who desire to do so opt to abort. Therefore your characterization of the matter as an "undesirable choice" is logically untenable.

Your analysis of the term "intervene" is also poorly thought out. If you saw a child on the edge of a well ready to fall in you would immediately "intervene" to save the child's life. That is because you value human life. But if you saw an insect on the side of the well ready to fall in you would likely do nothing because you do not value the life of an insect. Perhaps you would also try to save the life of a dog or cat. Why then is intervention for the purpose of saving a life bad?

Moreover in society we are constantly "intervening" in other people's lives. For instance every city and town has an ordinance requiring people not to play their stereo systems so loud as to disturb the neighbors.

Erick Reynolds said...

But what is too loud? If you are having a party on your property, whose rights prevail? Do we ban all parties to end the controversy? To intervene or not to intervene? Who decides? That is the original question.

There is never one point of view.

Erick Reynolds said...
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