Islamic Scholars Criticize bin Laden’s Sea Burial

And then there’s this:

Muslim clerics said Monday that Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets.

Although there appears to be some room for debate over the burial — as with many issues within the faith — a wide range of senior Islamic scholars interpreted it as a humiliating disregard for the standard Muslim practice of placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca.

Sea burials can be allowed, they said, but only in special cases where the death occurred aboard a ship.

Bin Laden’s burial at sea “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs,” said Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning.

So what? I’ll start paying attention to what these “scholars” have to say when that clearly and unambiguously denounce all terrorism. That means no buts  as in, “We are against terrorism but not when it is used against Jews occupying Palestine”, or ‘we are against terrorism but it is all right to murder people if a Koran is burned somewhere, anywhere is the world.

Good Friday Crucifixions

In the Phillipines, some people celebrate Good Friday by nailing themselves to crosses.

Yes, they actually have themselves nailed to crosses. They only stay up on the cross for about ten minutes, but still, it has to be agonizing. They also have their backs whipped until they are bloody, just ass Jesus was flogged by the Romans. They do this out of piety or to fulfill a sacred vow or panata.  As Catholic Archbishop Rolando Tirona explained;

“The panata becomes so personal that nobody can correct or change them. They promise they will do this if their sick grandmother gets better and when she gets better, they say they have to fulfil their vows,”

The Catholic Church is against this practice, but there is little they can do to stop these people.

One of the most outspoken critics of the bloody rituals, Catholic Archbishop Rolando Tirona of a Manila district, said they were a misreading of church teachings, but he conceded there were powerful cultural reasons behind them.

This certainly is a misunderstanding of Christian teachings. It is entirely unnecessary. Jesus died on the cross precisely so we wouldn’t have to. You cannot bargain with God. I don’t see how He benefits from someone suffering nor would he ask such a price in return for making someone’s grandmother get better. This is simply the worst sort of superstition.

To make matters worse, it has also become a tourist attraction in some parts of the Phillipines.

Enaje said he heard that other Philippine villages were paying people to be crucified, but insisted that things were different in Cutud.

“The people in Cutud are sincere. We aren’t doing it for the money,” he said.

But as the religious ceremonies went on in Cutud, dozens of vendors hawked souvenirs, hats, cold drinks and snacks to the crowds of curious locals and Western tourists.

German photojournalist Gunther Deichmann, a longtime resident of the Philippines, said the event was not as genuine as it had once been.

“It’s a little bit more like a carnival now. Maybe 20 years ago it was more realistic,” he said.

District tourism officer Ching Pangilinan denied church charges of commercilisation, saying local authorities had an obligation to manage the event to prevent tourists from mobbing the place or being robbed.

“People just come whether we promote it or not. So tourism assistance is necessary,” she said.

Good Friday

I always wondered why the day Jesus was crucified is called “Good” Friday. Being nailed to a cross could hardly be described as “good”. Perhaps it should be called “Bad” Friday, or “This Day Really Stinks” Friday. I finally got around to looking it up and it seems that the “good” is an obsolete definition of the word which means holy or pious. That makes a whole lot more sense.

Holy Thursday

Today is Holy or Maundy Thursday, when many Christians celebrate the Last Supper.

The Lord’s Supper

12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’[c]

28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[d] you yourself will disown me three times.”

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:12-31)

Letter from Benjamin Franklin to an Atheist

Here is a letter that Benjamin Franklin might have written to one of the New Atheists.

o —————

Cravenstreet, Dec. 13. 1757

Dear Sir,

I have read your Manuscrit with some Attention. By the Arguments it contains against the Doctrine of a particular Providence, tho’ you allow a general Providence, you strike at the Foundation of all Religion: For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection. I will not enter into any Discussion of your Principles, tho’ you seem to desire it; At present I shall only give you my Opinion that tho’ your Reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some Readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general Sentiments of Mankind on that Subject, and the Consequence of printing this Piece will be a great deal of Odium drawn upon your self, Mischief to you and no Benefit to others. He that spits against the Wind, spits in his own Face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any Good would be done by it?

You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous Life without the Assistance afforded by Religion; you having a clear Perception of the Advantages of Virtue and the Disadvantages of Vice, and possessing a Strength of Resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common Temptations. But think how great a Proportion of Mankind consists of weak and ignorant Men and Women, and of inexperienc’d and inconsiderate Youth of both Sexes, who have need of the Motives of Religion to restrain them from Vice, to support their Virtue, and retain them in the Practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great Point for its Security; And perhaps you are indebted to her originally that is to your Religious Education, for the Habits of Virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent Talents of reasoning on a less hazardous Subject, and thereby obtain Rank with our most distinguish’d Authors. For among us, it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots that a Youth to be receiv’d into the Company of Men, should prove his Manhood by beating his Mother. I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the Tyger, but to burn this Piece before it is seen by any other Person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of Mortification from the Enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of Regret and Repentance. If Men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion what would they be if without it? I intend this Letter itself as a Proof of my Friendship and therefore add no Professions of it, but subscribe simply Yours

B.F.

This letter was taken from The Founders on Religion by James H. Hutson

It’s hard to know what Franklin’s religious beliefs were. He was probably not an atheist, nor was he an orthodox Christian. Deism might be close, but he denied being a Deist in his autobiography because he did not find it “useful”. The impression I get is that Franklin was a worldly, materialistic man who thought of religion as useful for public morality.

Passover

At sundown today the Jews begin the celebration of Pesach or Passover, to commemorate what is perhaps the most significant event of Jewish history, the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. Passover lasts until the evening of the 26th.

Exodus 12

The Passover

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do.

17 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

The Exodus

31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt[b] was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.

Passover Restrictions

43The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover:

“No foreigner is to eat of it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.

46 “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

48 “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. 49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

50 All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.

Although Christians do not generally celebrate Passover, it does have great significance for Christianity. The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples was a Passover seder.

Luke 22

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

The Last Supper

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

Jesus’s crucifixion is regarded as a sacrifice like the passover lamb and Christians regard the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt as a foreshadowing of Christ’s deliverance of the whole human race from the slavery of sin.

26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.  (Hebrews 7:26-28)

28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:28)

So, Chag Sameach to any Jewish readers and thanks to Lochemya David who taught me the greeting.

The Irrational Atheist 3

I just finished The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day, and I will give it 4 stars when I review it on Amazon.com. I think Vox Day did a fairly good job using logic against the New Atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. If he did not conclusively make the case for the existence of God, at least he showed that reason does not lead inexorably to atheism. He demolishes the argument that religion is the cause of most wars, and shows that the modern tradition of governments murdering millions of their own citizens is always done by atheist, or at any rate secularized rulers.

Towards the end Vox Day tackles the problem of evil by using his own experience as a game designer to speculate that God does not always have full control over every event, if only by limiting His omnipotence in order to allow human freedom. I recommend this book as an interesting read.

The Irrational Atheist 2

Speaking of irrational atheists, I wonder why they all have to go through the trouble writing books making fun of believers. I don’t  go around making fun of people who have other religions. I may think their beliefs are wrong, but unless that belief includes trying to kill me because Allah commands it, then it really doesn’t affect me.

Of course, they say that religion poisons everything, starts wars, persecutions, etc. I grant that  a lot of evils have been done in the name of religion, but blaming religion is really addressing the symptom and not the cause, which is our sinful nature. I really don’t think that the last five thousand years of recorded history would have been greatly different if everyone had been an atheist.

I suspect that if it were a simple matter of unbelief, what others believe would be a matter of indifference to them. I wonder if, subconsciously, they do believe in God, or some divine power, and hate Him.

The Muslim World’s Coming European Revolution

The Muslim World’s Coming European Revolution.

This an interesting article that gives me some hope for the future, at least of the Middle East. I don’t have time right now to comment much but it does seem that there is a clear link between the oppression of women and of society at large. After all, a society that denies a voice to half its population cannot be said to be truly free.

I note, in passing that I recall that opportunities for the higher education for women actually increased after the revolution in Iran, perhaps because so many men were killed in the Iran-Iraq War. This, I believe has played no small part in the, so far unrealized, Green Revolution there.

Is the New Testament full of lies?

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I got this link from a friend of a friend, Cedric Klein. He posted this response to Bart Ehrman’s latest book, “Forged”, in which he contends that many of the New Testament books are simply forgeries, not written by the authors named. That is, about half of Paul’s letters First and Second Peter, James and Jude were not written those apostles. What is more, Dr. Ehrman says that most if not all Bible scholars know this.

To be honest, I am not impressed with this line of reasoning, for the simple reason that I don’t see any way to prove the matter one way or another. And, it seems to me to be a little presumptuous to believe that a scholar is able to know more about the authorship of any document two-thousand years after it was written than someone who lived within a generation of the writers. The early church leaders who first put together the New Testament canon were certainly aware of the existence of forged or spurious works attributed to various apostles and they did go through quite a bit of effort to weed them out.

It seems to me that some of the skepticism regarding New Testament authorship follows the reasoning that Peter or Paul would not or could not have written something like that, so therefore he did not. But, to tell the truth, we do not know how or what they could have written since their only surviving writings are in the Bible.

Take Peter, for example. We only have First and Second Peter as possible examples of his writing. What can we compare them to? It is widely believed that Peter could not have written the two letters because the Greek is too elegant for an illiterate fisherman who did not even speak Greek. However, we do not; in fact know that Peter was illiterate, though he likely was. Aramaic was his native language, but it was very likely that he spoke some Greek. In any event, he, and the other New Testament writers used scribes or secretaries, who had some freedom in choosing the words to express the ideas of their employers.

Given the use of scribes, it seems to me that it would not be easy, or even possible to make any definite conclusion that someone wrote this Gospel, or someone could not have written that letter. That being the case, I am going to tend to trust the judgment of those closest in time to the actual writing of the New Testament.

I realize that the question is quite a bit more complicated than this but this post is already going longer than I had intended, so I’ll stop for now.