In a recent Newsweek article, devout atheist Sam Harris laments religion's influence in American politics and in shaping public policy. While we might expect such arguments to assert the seperation of church and state, Harris' main objection is that religions are fundamentally immoral and unethical.1
Category Archives: Religion
Yes I know about religions other than Judaism
There's a great quote today courtesy of Rev. David Clippard speaking at the Missouri Baptist Convention's annual meeting in St. Louis. While his speech was littered with anti-Islamic statements, his comments afterwards were perplexing to say the least:
Clippard said Tuesday that his message was really about love.
"I don't hate Islamic people," he said. "We need to love these folks, go after them and love them, one at a time. We need to crucify them with Christ."
And here I thought the crucifixion was a *bad* thing when really it was just a little "tough love" by the Romans. My question is are 2x4's now considered acceptable gifts for a 5th or "wood" anniversary?
Brandishing the slogan of "Torah U'Madda," Yeshiva University promotes some form of synthesis between Jewish religious and secular culture. While the term Torah U'Madda is generic, in the context of YU it generally refers to its dual curriculum, combining the religious and secular subject matters in one university as opposed to having them be necessarily in conflict. But beyond the distinction of Torah U'Madda in subject matters, I noticed this past week two instances of Torah U'Madda in the nature of discourse itself.
Most New Yorkers, especially subway commuters, have had experience with random and often comical street preachers. Most are harmless. If you're on the street you can act like the New Yorker and ignore them like you do everyone else, and if you're on the subway they tend to change cars or trains after one stop.1
Recently Jews For Jesus has stepped up a missionizing campaign in New York. Unlike the typical street preachers who minister to whomever happens to listen, Jews For Jesus actively tries to proselytize individuals with direct confrontation.
These confrontations can be very uncomfortable for most Jews. Few are well versed enough to respond to the challenges,2 and even those who are competent in the sources might not have the personality or debating skills to have an effective argument.
Ideally, I would suggest that when confronted the best response would be to walk away,3 however this is not always possible. So as a public service and in the interests of "know how to respond to heretics" (Avot 2:17) I'd like to offer my suggestions as a brief guide to handling the overly aggressive missionaries.
Following up on the topic of conversions, it seems that 3 out of 4 religions agree that freedom to convert from or to another religion is a basic religious right.
However, when it comes to proselytizing, one should really have a good idea of the target audience or community. Fark picked up this story about Hassidim receiving missionizing DVD's in the mail. As the article says in the last paragraph, "But theology aside, technology might prove a larger hurdle for Katz's group. However appealing the packaging, most of the thousands of Kiryas Joel households that got the 'Days of Moshiach' DVD don't have televisions or computers on which to view it."
I can just see how one of the conversations went:
- "Don't watch that thing! It's kefira!"
"Oh, and how do you know?"
"Um...my wife's third cousin isn't so frum and he told me about it...yeah, that's the ticket."
The DVD is called Days Of Mashiach, innocuously enough, and if you're interested here are some screenshots and streaming video.1
1. YUTOPIA takes no responsibility for anyone who converts due to watching this film. Come to think of it, how desperate is a religion when it actually wants members who are of the mental stability that they would change their faith based on a DVD? Unless of course, we're talking about The Big Lebowsky in which case all bets are off.
There was a big kerfuffle a few years back about kohanim flying on airplanes and passing over cemetaries and one of the wackier proposed solutions involved having the Kohein wrap himself up in a bodybag. While this didn't go over well at the time, it was probably due to lousy marketing. Had they called it an "airline sleeping bag not only would it have become trendy, but they could have even charged $99 for it.
Ok so we'd need to make a more "modest" sleeved version, but it's basically there.
Apparently, if I'm not blogging. people think something terrible must have happened. Between numerous e-mails and random IM's I realized that either have a loyal fan base or disturbed cult following. Either way, I figure I've got to get back and somehow work out a way to turn a profit. In the meantime, I'll try to respond in due time.
As to what I've been doing for the past month or so, I leave that as an exercise to the reader, especially if you're proficient with Photoshop.
Getting back to normal here, you might have seen the stories about the Church Of Fools, the first interactive sanctuary on the net.1 As part of my ecumenical procrastination, I decided to check out this community which serves the spirituality seekers who cannot be inconvenienced to leave their computer.
Behold, my first foray into Church.2 Screenshots included.
Disclaimer: I don't have the time right now to thumbnail the images. If you are offended either by Christian imagery or slow web pages, please to not read any further.
James Hitchcock writes a wonderful article in February's First Things titled The Enemies of Religious Liberty. (Read the article)
Dr. Hitchcock cites several examples where people claiming to promote freedom and personal freedom, will deny others the right of religious observance - when their positions disagree with them.
For a quick refresher, see The First Amendment:
- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The problem of course is at what point does the "freedom" to worship become a federal "establishment" of a religion? Or from the opposite perspective, when do federal laws prohibit the free exercise of religion?
One doesn't have do much research to see how issues like school prayer and gay marriages reveal the conflicting ethics and "rights" of their proponents.
Even the ACLU can't seem to make up its mind. In their statement on religious liberty, they claim, "the free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one's religion free of government interference," and that the "ACLU will continue working to ensure that religious liberty is protected by keeping the government out of the religion business." In practice, they repeatedly appeal to the courts to restrict prayer if held publicly.
As Dr. Hitchcock notes, for many legal scholars religious freedoms are only granted where the secular culture allows. If there is any conflict or "divisiveness," the personal freedom of religion bows to the ethics governing the secular society.
Dr. Hitchcock also writes a column for Women for Faith and Family which "issues occasional public statements on matters of concern to Catholic women, their families or religious communities." Should provide some interesting reading for the elusive spare time.
I'm working on a few serious posts, and I've been busy with school and life. Hopefully, we'll have some good stuff coming up, but in the meantime, more snark.
Reuven first introduced me to these guys and their attempts at creation re-education. Ben Resnick shows me they've expanded their youth programming with Jesus 4 Kidz.
The mascot "Lambuel" has a girlfriend "Ruby the lioness" and apparently they want to get married someday. Personally, I think Lambuel would do much better with a wolf.
An elephant character "Habu" is asked: "Wouldn't you rather have just one God who loves you a bunch than a bunch of gods that don't love you at all?" Fortunately, "Jesus loves everybody, even the unsaved like Habu!"
Oh, but stay away from Mr. Gruff the atheist:
- If you find an Atheist in your neighborhood,
TELL A PARENT OR PASTOR RIGHT AWAY!
You may be moved to try and witness to
these poor lost souls yourself, however
AVOID TALKING TO THEM!
Atheists are often very grumpy and bitter and will lash out at children or they may even try to trick you into neglecting God's Word.
And if that fails, you can always call his Scottish cousin McGruff. Click on the goat's head and he'll say things like, "Coffee's the only thing that gives me solace" and "Hey Kid, wanna read some Ayn Rand?"
Also check out Hopsiah the Kanga-Jew and Professor Giraffenstein. No word yet on future marketing plans, or the release date for the animated version of The Passion.
"It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness, and so is wisdom to a man of discernment."(Proverbs 10:23)
Inspired by Kurt Warner's recent accusations that he was benched because of his religion, ESPN's Robert Lipsyte writes about Sports, God & Religion.
Nothing really new here. Some players like to invoke the name of the Lord before they go out to who knows what. On the other hand, some owners are suspicious of players who (halilah) believe in a power greater than football. Reading this article, I'm reminded how similar this community of worshipers mimics almost every religious community.
I'm sure there are plenty of professional athletes devoted to their respective faiths. Others merely pay lip-service because it sounds good to other people and they demonstrate some degree of humility. How many people do we know of sit on either side of this mehitza?
I also find interesting is the jihad aspect of football. Whoever has more faith, has God on their side, and therefore deserves to win. Dennis Miller had a great line (not quoted by Lipsyte for some reason): "the winning team always has God on their side, but no one ever says 'Jesus made me fumble.'" It's easy to thank God when things are going well, but how often do we see the hand of God in the bad as well?
From what I've seen, the Lord is invoked in football more than other sports. This could be because of shortened season, heightened intensity, or following George Carlin - baseball is just wimpy. With fewer and more intense games, football players will understandably be more emotional than after one of the many insignificant baseball games.
Of course, all athletes get emotional at the end of the season. Players thank God for a good season or for the opportunities they had. It's a time of reflection and retrospection where players reevaluate themselves and prepare for the future season (or retirement). For intents and purposes, this is the end of their year and the off-season is a time for renewal and optimism. We shouldn't be surprised then that athletes have their own "Rosh Hashana" rituals.
It's easy to mock athletes for irrational, inconsistent, or insincere faiths. Just realize that underneath the pads and multi-million dollar contracts, they're just people like everyone else. And the flaws we see in them, might very well be the flaws we refuse to see in ourselves.