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The War Against Tolerance

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Posted on Feb 11, 2008
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AP photo / Carlos Osorio

By Chris Hedges

Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are the three stooges of the Christian right. These self-described former Muslim terrorists are regularly trotted out at Christian colleges—a few days ago they were at the Air Force Academy—to spew racist filth about Islam on behalf of groups such as Focus on the Family. It is a clever tactic. Curly, Larry and Mo, who all say they are born-again Christians, engage in hate speech and assure us it comes from personal experience. They tell their audiences that the only way to deal with one-fifth of the world’s population is by converting or eradicating all Muslims. Their cant is broadcast regularly on Fox News, including the Bill O’Reilly and Neil Cavuto shows, as well as on numerous Christian radio and television programs. Shoebat, who has written a book called “Why We Want to Kill You,” promises in his lectures to explain the numerous similarities between radical Muslims and the Nazis, how “Muslim terrorists” invaded America 30 years ago and how “perseverance, recruitment and hate” have fueled attacks by Muslims. 

These men are frauds, but this is not the point. They are part of a dark and frightening war by the Christian right against tolerance that, in the moment of another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would make it acceptable to target and persecute all Muslims, including the some 6 million Muslims who live in the United States. These men stoke these irrational fears. They defend the perpetual war unleashed by the Bush administration and championed by Sen. John McCain. McCain frequently reminds listeners that “the greatest danger facing the world is Islamic terrorism,” as does Mike Huckabee, who says that “Islamofascism” is “the greatest threat this country [has] ever faced.” George W. Bush has, in the same vein, assured Americans that terrorists hate us for our freedoms, not, of course, for anything we have done. Bush described the “war on terror” as a war against totalitarian Islamofascism while the Israeli air force was dropping tens of thousands of pounds of iron fragmentation bombs up and down Lebanon, an air campaign that killed 1,300 Lebanese civilians.

The three men tell lurid tales of being recruited as children into Palestinian terrorist organizations, murdering hundreds of civilians and blowing up a bank in Israel. Saleem says that as a child he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights, although no incident of this type was ever reported in Israel. He claims he is descended from the “grand wazir” of Islam, a title and a position that do not exist in the Arab world. They assure audiences that the Palestinians are interested not in a peaceful two-state solution but rather the destruction of Israel, the murder of all Jews and the death of America. Shoebat claims he first came to the United States as part of an extremist “sleeper cell.” 

“These three jokers are as much former Islamic terrorists as ‘Star Trek’s’ Capt. James T. Kirk was a real Starship captain,” said Mikey Weinstein, the head of the watchdog group The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The group has challenged Christian proselytizing in the military and denounced the visit by the men to the Air Force Academy.

The speakers include in their talks the superior virtues of Christianity. Saleem, for example, says his world “turned upside down when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident.”

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“A Christian man tended to Kamal at the accident scene, making sure he got the medical treatment he needed,” his Web site says. “Kamal’s orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist were also Christian men whom over a period of several months ministered the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to him as he recovered. The love and sacrificial giving of these men caused Kamal to cry out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob acknowledging his need for the Savior. Kamal has since become a man on a new mission, as an ambassador for the one true and living God, the great I Am, Jehovah God of the Bible.”

This creeping Christian chauvinism has infected our political and social discourse. It was behind the rumor that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Obama reassured followers that he was a Christian. It apparently did not occur to him, or his questioners, that the proper answer is that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, that persons of great moral probity and courage arise in all cultures and all religions, including Islam. Christians have no exclusive lock on virtue. But this kind of understanding often provokes indignant rage. 

The public denigration of Islam, and by implication all religious belief systems outside Christianity, is part of the triumphalism that has distorted the country since the 9/11 attacks. It makes dialogue with those outside our “Christian” culture impossible. It implicitly condemns all who do not think as we think and believe as we believe as, at best, inferior and usually morally depraved. It blinds us to our own failings. It makes self-reflection and self-criticism a form of treason. It reduces the world to a cartoonish vision of us and them, good and evil. It turns us into children with bombs. 

These three con artists are not the problem. There is enough scum out there to take their place. Rather, they offer a window into a worldview that is destroying the United States. It has corrupted the Republican Party. It has colored the news media. It has entered into the everyday clichés we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. It is ignorant and racist, but it is also deadly. It grossly perverts the Christian religion. It asks us to kill to purify the Earth. It leaves us threatened not only by the terrorists who may come from abroad but the ones who are rising from within our midst.


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By Frank, February 12, 2008 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment

beerdoctor, just to clarify: I have no “desert god” or gods of any kind. Call me a freethinker, naturalist, skeptic, atheist, godless heathen, or whatever you prefer. Though I was raised in a protestant home, my childhood indoctrination just didn’t ‘take’ as it did with my siblings and childhood peers. I consider all deity-based religions to be fictions. I consider religion itself to be akin to a virus of the mind that exploits certain neurological and psychological characteristics of humans, which evolution has left us with. I am glad to have apparently been born with a natural resistance to this ‘virus’.  This is by no means an original concept of mine, and before you attribute it to my being “quite confused”, you may want to consider the roster of scientists and psychologists who have said the same thing. I first heard it from Richard Dawkins. Try Googling “religion virus of the mind” for a primer.

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By ShawnK, February 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

friends of liberty,
By what authority do you get to delegate who is and is not a “true christian”? by your vague hand-waving definition, some good atheists and good muslims who feed the poor and sick are also christians.

Your tone is such that christians have the final key as to what morality is, which is a laughable notion. You are able to reject everything the old testament says to form your opinion of what makes a true christian by the new testament in an attempt to try to cling to some piece of your logically-tattered faith, but what gives you the authority to do so? You are a worse christian than those who take the whole bible literally because you can’t even decide what you believe.

Why can’t we reject the bible, qur’an, and all this other nonsense and be moral beings for the sake of being moral beings?

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By ShawnK, February 12, 2008 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

You are on my team too.

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By peacefull1, February 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You have rightly recognized a huge problem with many liberals.  I am a liberal and am also disgusted by the twisting of the concept of tolerance.  We are not tolerant of cancer, we are not tolerant of sexual assault, and we should not be tolerant of unjustified absurd beliefs about the nature of reality.  Many liberals want to give all cultures and all belief systems respect. This is dangerous and disappointing.  It is this kind of thinking that makes it nearly impossible for democrats to get a solid majority.

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By Friends Of Liberty, February 12, 2008 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is a fact that the government, through the media it owns and controls, is bashing Islam and muslims in order to cultivate enough fear and hatred among the American people to elicit their approval for war after war after war against Islamic countries that have never attacked us, on its quest to world domination, per Dick Cheney’s wishes in his PNAC (Progress for a New American Century).

As an Orthodox Christian, I do not believe in the equality of all religions, for if I did, I would adhere to either no one religion, or to all of them,  since they’d all be the same.  I am a Christian because I believe Christianity is the one true religion, the same way Muslims are Muslims because they believe Islam is the true religion.

What differentiates real Christians from those who are Christians by name only, is Christ’s definition,  “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”  A real Christian is one who follows Christ’s teachings (by living the example.)  “Love one another,” Christ said.  Put God first, then family.  Feed the poor and clothe them.  Visit the sick and the widows.  Offer comfort.  Forgive your enemies, and not only that, but love them as well.  How many Christians do these things?

Are you a Christian?  If so, are you pro-war?  Did Jesus advocate killing?  Do you hate all Muslims for the acts of a few? Do you wish death upon them?  How do you propose to convert them if your attitude towards them offends them with hatred?  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which converted non-Catholics to Catholicism by the sword (because of an erroneous mistranslation of Scripture), the only way to convert anyone to Christianity is through living the Christ-like life.  Jesus gained followers because they loved His teachings, His character and the way He conducted Himself.  Many saints of the early Church sold themselves as slaves to Muslim masters and served them as true Christians.  Their Muslim masters in turn, loved their Christian servants and converted to Christianity.  All this because the saints taught the love of Christ by example.  Are we Christians, today, living the life that Christ said was pleasing to God?

No, religion is not a virus.  Those who profess to be adherents to a religion, yet do not follow it, are giving their own religion a bad name.

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By ShawnK, February 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

cyrena, certainly wars are fought for a variety of reasons (plus, the argument could be made for nazism being just another demented religion -see chris hitchen’s latest book). But ask yourself the question, “How much does it help?”

How much does it help that a great deal of Muslims take very seriously the belief that they posess a book written by god? How much does it help the situation that young men who have absolutely nothing in life believe in the promise of great veneration for their family and a great afterlife after they suicide bomb themselves because it is encouraged in their book that god wrote?

How much does it help?


and I’m not even going to call you a moron or pass judgement on your educational background which I know nothing about.

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By JT, February 12, 2008 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Do any of you know a Christian?  Have any of you read the entire Bible?  No need to answer, these are rhetorical questions as I can tell the answer is no.  Christians can be recognized by their actions.  Claiming to be a Christian does not make you one anymore than standing in the garage makes you a car.  Chrisitans respect your right to live as you would like.  The problem is the majority of the media seem to equate tolerance with acceptance.  Christians are commanded to love all regardless.  That however does not mean that deviant behavior is to be accepted as normal or natural.  Christianity respects your decision to go to hell if that is what you want.  Such statements as, “Christianity is the most intolerant religion in history. More people have been killed in the name of Christianity than any other religion in history. By far.”  demonstrates that the brainwashing of the world’s media and so called higher education establishments have make an impact on some.  Read a book people and discover some facts.

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By cyrena, February 12, 2008 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment

Guns and grenades in Children’s hands aren’t connected to religion. They’re connected to WAR you moron.

One needn’t even know the EXISTENCE of ANY god, to fight a war based on survival, the demand for self-determination, or any other ideology, whether it’s legitimate or not.

Nazism and Communism weren’t religions moron, and they used plenty of guns and grenades, and in the hands of children.

Do you think the child soldiers in Africa are fighting because of a RELIGION? Islam or anything else?

NO! Only alleged “Christians” have historically used that as an excuse -Christianity- to wage massive wars against massive groups of humankind. In that respect, it’s a very Christian thing.

You should take some history lessons. Religious extremism in the form of violence is relatively new to Islam. It’s formed the foundation of Christianity, and those are just the facts.

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By Johnny Reb, February 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not one fact in your screed. Of all the terrorist activities in the world, how many are perpetuated by those claiming to represent the Christian faith? Answer: None who subscribe to beliefs of 99.99999% of Christians.

Muslims? That’s a different story.

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By Douglas Chalmers, February 12, 2008 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

#By Leefeller, February 12: “Let’s agree stupidity of religion is cultivated ignorance. Just to qualify…”

What about you, Leefeller? That leaves you with simply knowledge about non-knowledge, uhh…..


#By snarlah, February 12: ”...if I had to choose between deadly modern religion and paganism I would choose paganism…  I’m a Jew by birth, but Zionism is poison…”

Nice that someone understands Pagans who were the original Sun-worshippers. As all life in our solar system depends on the Sun for its existence, that is the nearest thing to ‘god’ in our understanding of the Universe.

Congratulations on being most probably the first person to admit that they are Jewish on T’dig and being realistic about Israel and Zionism. Pity that you don’t see fetuses as people, though….. so that takes care of you and the rest of the Jews, I guess…...

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By Richard, February 12, 2008 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There’s a lot to criticize. A lot of the same problems I see in Christianity I see in islam.

But pointing out a many of a certain religion are say homophobic or mysogynistic is a far cry from saying that bombings and mass arrests and demonizing an entire group of people is justified because they are inherently evil. 

But that’s just what the right does, using the actions of less then 1% of an entire religion to say that any evil committed on that group is therefore warrented because “those people” are dangerous or inferior.  Thats’ what those on the left are actually complaining against. (If I had a dime for every con that thought he knew the minds of Liberals…)

That it’s directed at a group the right seem to not like only adds to the perception that this has more to do with bigotry then with any rational response to a problem.

Indeed, few on the right even seem aware,(much less care) that many of the problems of “Islam” are actually problems of culture and tribalism that predate the religion.

If we are going to hold entire groups accountable for what a few do, then we are al going to have problems.  Of course that assumes that this principle was ever intended to be applied fairly.

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By ShawnK, February 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

Show me the Christian bible-memorization schools, putting guns and grenades in small children’s hands.

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By MikeD, February 12, 2008 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a bald faced lie. If there were a
Zionist-Crusader war against Islam there
would be no more Muslims on the planet.

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By ShawnK, February 12, 2008 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

You are on MY TEAM

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By Tony Wicher, February 12, 2008 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

Christianity is much MORE dangerous than Islam. These COFU people prove that Osama bin Laden is right: there IS a Zionist-Crusader war against Islam. The main difference is that Christians have a lot more nuclear weapons at their disposal.

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By Michael Pannone, February 12, 2008 at 9:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The ideology, which was described in this article, permeating “Christian”(sic) communities is the new isolationism. I thank the stars that Ron Paul has done as well as he has. For each time he appeared in the media he told the truth and opened up the conversation, causing clear-minded people to think. Only Ron Paul refuses to pander. Only non-interventionism will lead to freedom, prosperity and peace. Not all Christian people follow this herd. The inconsistency with this group, in the context of life, is enormous. These will fight for the life of a baby, but I ask for what end, to only become fodder in John Killer McCain’s 100 years’ war?

“Truth is treason, in an empire of lies.” Who said it? Ron Paul.

Thank you.

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By Ralph Zecco, February 12, 2008 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you want to defend Islam or Buddhism or any of the other Isms, then you must acknowledge that they do kill people who disagree with them or challenge their power over the people they dominate.

Now Christianity has been stated as dangerous but if you truly follow the teachings of Christ, you are not dangerous except to those that don’t like to be told they are sinners and are living in sin.  You cannot force someone to become a Christian, nor can you honestly kill someone for saying something nasty or blasphemous against Christianity for it says to do good to those that hate you.  Now you do have religions that claim to be “Christian” but in order for it to be true, they must follow Christ and not man.  So how many would be dsiqualified because they decided to kill those that rejected their beliefs?

As for Islam and Buddhism, they are dangerous for either one grants you the right to kill a Christian and not be brought to trial if the Christian was telling others about Christ.

Think about it.

A Chrisian.

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By Dan Hooker, February 12, 2008 at 8:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Homicide rates in these countries is astronomical.
The fact is most are not reported i.e..honour killings, ethnic killings.  Islam is and will always be a violent, repressive cult.  If you don’t like hearing it don’t make it so.  Grow up and leave your childish montra behind and become the man you are afraid to be.

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By Leefeller, February 12, 2008 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

Stupidity is cultivated ignorance. Let’s agree stupidity of religion is cultivated ignorance. Just to qualify. Can expand, but is not necessary.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 12, 2008 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

This posting is a sad pathetic comment, revealing a mind that is quite confused at best. So you compare religions to different strains of virus? Besides being thoughtless and xenophobic, perhaps there is a little homophobia in there too? Essentially your argument is that your desert god is better than their desert god. Read your Bible, that is a blood soaked instrument too. Read the Torah, check out what it says about gentiles. Yes there is a virus and it is as common as the common cold. It is called stupidity. Stupidity is cultivated ignorance.

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By Frank, February 12, 2008 at 6:10 am Link to this comment

The left’s politically correct coddling of Islam is so absurd that I have given up trying to have rational discussions with them about it. Liberals are so fearful of any suggestion of ‘inequality’ among religions, the sexes, cultures, etc that they refuse to acknowledge even the obvious.

Is the christian right exploiting fears of Islam to win converts? Probably. Does that make their criticism of Islam any less valid, or peoples fears any less rational?  No.

Islam, like Christianity, is made up of a small number of faithful who actually follow their religion’s texts faithfully, not selectively. We call these people ‘fundamentalists’ or ‘extremists’, and everybody else ‘mainstream’.  The truth is the vast majority of Christians and Muslims behave decently not because of their religions, but in spite of their religions, because they filter the absurdities of their own religion’s religious texts through their own personal sense of reason or emotion in deciding how to behave. 

Mainstream muslims do not define Islam by any means, they like mainstream Christians define that segment of humanity who are marginally less afflicted by a human psychological virus known as religion. Their ‘reasonable’ behavior says nothing about the danger of the virus that they are infected with, which under the right conditions can take over completely and strip them of any sense of reason, rendering them as violent and dangerous as any other ‘extremist’ of Islam who believes in the doctrine of martyrdom.

Saying Islam is no more dangerous than Christianity today is like saying HIV is no more dangerous than the common cold or the flu. If you go back in history far enough in history, their were probably times when those common viruses killed more people than HIV. Does that mean we should consider these equivalent threats to humanity today?

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By Tim Stewart, February 12, 2008 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, Your comment” these men are frauds” literally jumps off the page. Any proof? Or is it that you just don’t like what they say? Oh yah! This is a blog, not journalism! By the way, when did you stop beating your significant other?

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By Tim Stewart, February 12, 2008 at 5:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, Your statement “these men are frauds” literally jumps off the page. Any proof? Or is it that you just don’t like what they say. Oh yes, this is a blog not journalism. By the way, when did you stop beating your significant other?

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By i,Q, February 12, 2008 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

Well, you recognize what i am saying. That’s a start. Only five billion nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand nine-hundred and ninety-eight people left to get the message out to.

This planet is sure gonna be great once everyone’s converted.

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By RichardB, February 11, 2008 at 11:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If Curly, Larry and Moe here were legit they would have our government forces down their throats in a flash.  In addition, forsaking Islam is forbidden by the Qu’ran.  If these dudes really did convert from Islam there would be so many fatwas issued calling for their deaths that it would make your head spin.  I’ve seen these creepos on TV.  Yuk!

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By ShawnK, February 11, 2008 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment

Cyrena:
“His complaint is of the entire Islamic faith, which of course goes beyond the Qur’an, and Shawn doesn’t.”

I’m sorry, if one were to criticize the muslim faith, would you base it on anything but the qur’an first and foremost? we aren’t talking about cultural practices, or race, or anything else, its about what the beliefs themselves are. these are found in the qur’an. You are right, I do not need to go beyond the Qur’an to judge islam.

“But, ShawnK here, simply rejects ALL of Islam, based on his/her interpretation of the Qur’an.”
this again is christian-centric thinking… the idea the qur’an is up for interpretation as most moderate christianists have come to view the bible. Islam has not had such a slight inclination towards a reformation as christianity has had… when it says the qur’an is the word of god, it is the word of god, period. If metaphoric interpretation of the qur’an was encouraged throughout the Islamic world, we probably would not be having this talk right now.

“ShawnK also doesn’t touch on the Bible at all, in respect to some seriously violent text. “
... Agreed… it’s indeed a horrible book. again, I am not losing sleep at night over fear of retribution from my anti-christian activities.

“ShawnK sounds like…he/she may actually operate in the field of psychology, which means that they pass on these neurosis to their patients or clients. “
Im an ex-hindu computer scientist atheist who has studied religion since ‘01.

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By ShawnK, February 11, 2008 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

there is nothing wrong with not tolerating ignorance. Christianity and Islam leave little to be respected. We don’t go around respecting belief in any other field besides religion. Do you respect Mahmoud Ahmaadhfsdhsfddinejad’s belief that the holocaust never happened? should we grant that topmost respect? how about the belief that the universe is 6,000 years old? should you respect that belief? no. it is not a matter of arrogance, it is an insult to intellectualism to grant such stances any credence.

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By ShawnK, February 11, 2008 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

I have read the Qur’an once, as well as taken a basic university course on it and spoken with the professor a few times, and read some secondary literature on the life of Muhammad by Watt, as well as Ibn Warraq’s famous book. these are what shape my opinions. Although many muslims would argue that I haven’t truly read it since i don’t read arabic. bullshit.

like the beerdoctor, you criticize positions which are not mine… you point at other scriptures outside of Islam that are even more violent, and I do not doubt that for a second, I agree with you. I have read parts of the old testament and various apocrypha… it isn’t a pissing contest of who has the most violent religion, they are all a sham. it is about what is real and happening right now as I said:

” The fact of the matter is, I do not lose sleep at night wondering if Christians are going to rise up and slaughter my family and burn US embassies if i publish caricatures of Jesus. Over 100 lay dead over the same issue in 2006 during the muhammad cartoons fiasco.”

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By ShawnK, February 11, 2008 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

beerdoctor, you criticize positions which are not mine:

“... it is incredibly christian-centric view of the world, and a view that christians try to use to show their tolerance for other religions as an attempt to demand respect for their own equally ridiculous beliefs.
...Don’t get me wrong, Christianity too is a religion that deserves no respect. ”

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

i,Q, I fear that your comments will fall on deaf ears. Whenever someone tries to make a rational argument for religion as a vehicle for spirituality, it is almost immediately hijacked by those who use metaphysical inquiry as a way to reinforce their own theological fascism. Perhaps the best thing that can be said under these circumstances, is that organized religion has nothing to do with human spirituality.

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By i,Q, February 11, 2008 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment

Both religions, some of whose factions are at war with one another, have texts which direct them to leave judgement to God/Allah.

The extremists in both camps who pass judgement and advocate the death and destruction of the other are disobeying their creator’s will.

For all practical purposes, religion is not the texts which guide it’s followers. Religion is its followers; it is the actions of people. Splitting hairs about which operator’s manual has the most unsavory morsels is purely academic. The fact remains that the majority of living beings who practice almost any religion are moderate by action and most by belief as well.

If we want to regain our collective and predominantly tolerant sanity, we should reign in those who take it upon themselves to bring “God’s justice” to non-believers. Perhaps this could be achieved by pointing out their failure to obey the tenants of their own scripture. Certainly it involves getting their finger off the trigger.

As cheesy as this sounds, it might again be time to garner some attention from the MSM and world media by staging massive peace gatherings. Who knows, it might just be contagious. i hate to quote Nixon here, but the tolerant, moderate liberal is the Silent Majority largely ignored in the weaving of the mainstream narrative because we are simply not that exciting. There’s no story there. No ad revenue in that, if you know what i mean

@cyrena

i read this article regarding atheism. Perhaps you have trouble coming over to the “dark side” because you don’t deny the possibility of a deity. i can’t prove there is no god, but i have no problem identifying myself as an atheist, because i see no purpose for religion to exist in order for people to be fully realized moral beings. Religion does exist, and so i also wrestle with the question of tolerance of intolerance, and with my frustration at having to live with the problems and global threats that result from religious feuding.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment

You are, at least your assertions are ridiculous. It is obvious that you know nothing of Christendom’s history, where at several points the Pope put on armor to do holy battle. No one expected the Spanish Inquisition! So if you are disturbed by the violent rantings of extreme Islam, remember that is your western faith a few centuries ago. And in the extremes, that is the faith you hold up now. How else can you explain his most full-of Rev. Pat Robertson when he proclaimed that Aids was God’s way to smite the homosexual. You have a brain, try using it.

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By cyrena, February 11, 2008 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment

M Gillespie,

Thanks so much for these links!! I’m mesmerized by the list of countries by homicide rate. It’s very helpful for studying trends as well. Side by side with the historical events of these nations, including and especially the US Britain, Wales, during the turn of the (20th) Century are helpful to some current work.

Now of course we’d need further analysis in considering the effects of religion on homicide rates. For instance, Saudi Arabia, probably the most repressive nation that I can think of in the Middle East, and the home of Wahhabism, has a very low homicide rate, just because it IS so repressive. At least that is certainly part of the reason.

But the main point of your title is certainly clear. America the Great consistently manages to top out, when the averages are tabulated over time.

I’m not surprised either. My recent and current studies of the birth of the US, and it’s formation prove it to have been a most violent undertaking. Thinking about it…the genocide of millions of Native Americans, and the slave conditions of the first 200 years, it’s not much of a surprise at all, eh?

And then there’s that whole thing about us being a supposedly CHRISTIAN Nation. Yep..that figured in back then as well. The British (and the French, and the Spaniards) brought that with them in the ‘formation’.

So, just a reminder about the amount of violence that has been committed in the name of Christianity, for…CENTURIES…

WOW!

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By Maani, February 11, 2008 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

Shawnk:

As many people here know, I am a Christian minister, but have also done serious study of comparative religion over a period of more than 25 years, and have read the underlying texts of almost every major religion/belief system on earth.  In this regard, I have read the Qur’an three times, the most recent being last year (2007).

So I must ask: have you and I read the same Qur’an? Because according to my readings, a comparatively small number of passages in a comparatively small number of suras speak to the issue of violence against others, whether re conversion or for any other reason.  Indeed, as Cyrena notes, the OT is actually a MUCH more violent book than the Qur’an.  (Though no one seems to have noted that the NT is virtually violence-free, with the exception of Jesus’ crucifixion and a handful of martyr deaths.)

Also as Cyrena notes, the most fundamentalist interpretation of Islam - Wahhabism - is not only practiced by a comparative minority of Muslims, but is as narrow and poor an interpretation of Islam as the hopelessly narrow, unloving and unforgiving interpretations of Christianity spouted by the “Old Testament Christians” of the Religious Right.  Indeed, I doubt the extremists in either faith would know Jesus or Muhammud if they bit them on the ear.

The majority of the Qur’an speaks of peace, humility, brotherhood, community and forgiveness, just as the NT (and particularly Jesus) speaks of love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, humility, selflessness, etc.

Much is made of the word “jihad.”  Yet the primary meaning of that word - in perhaps 75% of all cases in the Qur’an - means “internal spiritual struggle.”  It has NOTHING to do with violence.  The secondary meaning of “jihad” - “Holy War” - is used in less than 15% of cases.  And even HERE, there are proscriptions against certain types of violence.  (The tertiary meaning of “jihad” is obscure, and would require separate discussion.)

I am no fan of religious intolerance, or the atrocities, injustices, violence, wrongs and co-opted and abused political power that narrow interpretations of various faiths can lead to when a portion of those faiths are hijacked by extremist fundmentalist leaders.  But to suggest that ANY faith is INHERENTLY violent is simply not supported by an honest and open-minded reading of their underlying texts.

Peace.

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By republicanSScareme, February 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Can everyone spell “Mossad”?

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By Maani, February 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Cyrena:

First, Alan Dershowitz has NO position in Hillary’s advisors.  All he did was endorse her.  Unless you can provide credible support for that claim, my research tells me you are dead wrong.  It is Albright who serves in the comparable position to Brzezinski on Clinton’s team.

Second, it is interesting how you posted that wiki piece on Brzezinski, but neatly edited out any of the “bad” things he has done, or the atrocities he is associated with.  For exmaple, it was Brzezinski who pushed the CIA to arm the mahujadeen against the Russians - thus creating the Taliban, Al Qaeda and OBL.  Nice going.

He was also a strong supporter of the Vietnam War, he criticized the Nixon-Kissinger “detente” strategy (which worked in opening up both the U.S.S.R. and China), criticized McGovern as a “pacifist,” and “led the U.S. toward a ne arms buildup.”  And, of course, he is a founder of the Trilateral Commission.

Ironically, he was also a nemesis of Ted Kennedy when Kennedy ran for president; Kennedy hated him.  Yet now they seem to be on the same team.  Politics makes strange bedfellows.

Peace.

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By cyrena, February 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment

Tony,

Just from ShawnK’s comments, he obviously does NOT understand, because bigots of any variety, (including those who are intolerant to religion) are the same as those they would preach against. They’re bigots.

His complaint is of the entire Islamic faith, which of course goes beyond the Qur’an, and Shawn doesn’t. It’s the same myopic view that is present in so many people who are dogmatic in the views of ANYTHING, including their intolerance of anything.

And, while he pays some lip service to the so called evils of Christianity as well, (though he never claims to be an atheist)only goes on and on about the evils apparent in the TEXT of the Quar’an.

Now I am myself, fairly close to athiest, (I say agnostic, but the difference is pretty academic) and I very much respect the religious people of the globe, despite what their religion happens to be. And of course I REJECT any extremism in any of those religions, since nearly all of them, (but specifically Christianity and Islam) do HAVE those extremists. (Christianity actually has far MORE).

But, ShawnK here, simply rejects ALL of Islam, based on his/her interpretation of the Qur’an. ShawnK here, is apparently ignorant of the fact that Wahhabism, is an extreme version of Islam that literally scares the shit out of MOST Muslims, not unlike some versions of Christianity scare the living shit out of ME!!

ShawnK also doesn’t touch on the Bible at all, in respect to some seriously violent text. I’m not kidding when I say that in my many attempts to get through even small sections of the Old Testament, I got some serious chills and shakes, and fears, followed by some nighmares on top of it. Really, how many people have ever tried a sort of literal reading of all of those fire and brimstone stories, claiming the feirce and swift retribution of god almighty, if one does…this, that or the other thing?

It never ceases to amaze me that seemingly reasonable adults will obsess about their children watching ‘violent’ things on TV, (not that I particularly approve myself) and then turn right around and have them read and recite from the bible on brimstone that will rain down on them and burn them right up. Geeze. What’s up with that?

Meantime, ShawnK sounds like, (and this is unfortunate) one of those neurotic people that has multiple issues and obsessions of his/her own, and the reason I say sad, (and even scary) is because he/she may actually operate in the field of psychology, which means that they pass on these neurosis to their patients or clients.

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By D.R., February 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment

Hedges, when he is not on a mission to try to portray all Christians as hatemongers (the very thing, by the way, he chastises a group of Christians here for doing), might consider reading a fellow liberal, Nicholas Kristof.

Kristof, in his recent article, “Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love,” notes,

Liberals believe deeply in tolerance and over the last century have led the battles against prejudices of all kinds, but we have a blind spot about Christian evangelicals. They constitute one of the few minorities that, on the American coasts or university campuses, it remains fashionable to mock.

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm Link to this comment

I’m one. Pagans tend to very tolerant. The Romans had no problem with other people’s gods - they would just adopt them and add them to their pantheon. Hindus do the same thing. It’s the Abrahamic religions that are by far the most intolerant. I will grant you that of those, Judaism has historically been the most tolerant. Since the rise of Zionism, however, it has been as nasty as the rest of them.

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

Christianity is the most intolerant religion in history. More people have been killed in the name of Christianity than any other religion in history. By far.

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

The only thing that can’t be tolerated in a democracy is intolerance itself - it doesn’t matter who is being intolerant, or whom the intolerance is directed against, whether Christians, Jews, Muslims or atheists. Atheists somehow imagine themselves above religious intolerance, and yet they are often the most intolerant people of all.

Don’t you understand this?

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By M Gillespie, February 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

On the psychiatric effects of media violence: http://www.healthyminds.org/mediaviolence.cfm

List of countries by homicide rate:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_homicide_rate

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By VillageElder, February 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

Judaism, Christianity & Islam all Abramic tradition.

If you like conversion at sword point you will love Christianity and Islam.  If you like fundamentalists you will love the Abramic traditions.  If you prefer fantasy to actual history you will love the abramic traditions.

Should you like actual history you will prefer logic and reason.  Christianity and Islam have created a great deal of blood flow in the name of salvation.  No matter what the faith or reason extremists are extremists and a threat to all of us.  Christian extremists are no different from any others

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By Carrie, February 11, 2008 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The idea of democracy, the idea that a person has a soul and that religion is a private matter are all modern/liberal ideas.  (When I say liberal I am not referring to American liberalism but liberalsim as a broader, philosophical movement)  So to your critique that by referring to democracy as a new form of religion one is “short sighted” I reply that it may be helpful for you to broaden your understanding of liberalism in a philosophical context.

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By ShawnK, February 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges, I believe on the contrary what is destroying this country is not its intolerance for outsiders, but rather too much tolerance. In western democracies, we tout freedom of religion as the most highly held of human rights.

But what society does this create when there are some religions which are essentially a packed up collection of violations of human rights? Islam is indeed a ‘wicked, vicious faith,’ and one need look no further than the Qur’an itself to demonstrate this. The simple act of reading their holy text seems to be a step that most pundits and news commentators have not taken, because on the news all we see are people repeating the mantra that Islam is a good religion “hijacked by a few extremists.” To say rubbish like this is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of Islam itself. These extremists are simply being better muslims than so-called moderates, according to the Qur’an.

There is a great deal of validity in what some of these right-wingers say about Islamic-extremism being the greatest threat the world faces, however with just a little knowledge of the history of this falsified, corrupt, and vile religion they would see that ISLAM itself is the world-threat and not “islamic-extremism” whatever that means.

the religiously tolerant apply this extremist vs moderate dichotomy to every religion they encounter in the world, when religions like Islam do not allow such categorizations. It is built into the creed of Islam that the Qur’an is the inerrant word of god as it has existed for eternity, and metaphoric interpretations of the scripture are not afforded. it is incredibly christian-centric view of the world, and a view that christians try to use to show their tolerance for other religions as an attempt to demand respect for their own equally ridiculous beliefs.

I despise the fact that the christian right has a stranglehold on this country’s politics, i despise the fact that you can have an ignorant religious bigot and science-denier like Huckabee or Romney make it to the quarterfinals in a race for this nations highest office, and I hate how the retardation of progressive thinking that is christian belief damages children psychologically and creates a polarized society… Don’t get me wrong, Christianity too is a religion that deserves no respect.

The fact of the matter is, I do not lose sleep at night wondering if Christians are going to rise up and slaughter my family and burn US embassies if i publish caricatures of Jesus. Over 100 lay dead over the same issue in 2006 during the muhammad cartoons fiasco.

Therefore, however misguided their motivation is in having a desire to denounce or erradicate Islam, I want to stand behind christianists as allies on this issue. Islam is a threat to anyone on the planet who breathes. read the Qur’an, read the history of Muhammad’s life. Stop the islamic apologizing in the media, call them out for what they are.

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By troublesum, February 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

Buddhism is about cultivating compassion and overcoming the afflictive emotions like anger.  You should try practicing it sometime.  Anybody can say “I am a Buddhist.”

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By LiberalDemocracy?, February 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So, we should replace a “liberal democracy” that protects human rights and freedoms with… what exactly?

A conservative one? ... I don’t follow your argument that LIBERALS have a problem.

If you have a problem with someone, call them out. Say the name of the person who wrote this article. Don’t lump all LIBERALS into your tirade.

If you respond to this please tell us what we should have instead of a liberal democracy, which, by the way, gave everyone those rights you are expressing now. Because a conservative government surely wouldn’t have.(going back to the Revolution, our Constitution was radically liberal)

Also, it is fine to hate haters. Do you hate Nazis who killed millions? You probably do, so does that put you in a conundrum? No? Didn’t think so. It is perfectly fine to condemn those who wish death and suffering upon others.

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

Well, that pretty well sums it up.

I read a report yesterday that said that 15% of Canadians polled would give up their next Canadian vote in order to vote in our presidential election…i wonder who’d they’d vote for?

And yeah, the world is paying attention, and it seems that they are hoping against hope that Sen Obama is the next president.

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By Shawn K., February 11, 2008 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Hedges, I believe on the contrary what is destroying this country is not its intolerance for outsiders, but rather too much tolerance. In western democracies, we tout freedom of religion as the most highly held of human rights.

But what society does this create when there are some religions which are essentially a packed up collection of violations of human rights? Islam is indeed a ‘wicked, vicious faith,’ and one need look no further than the Qur’an itself to demonstrate this. The simple act of reading their holy text seems to be a step that most pundits and news commentators have not taken, because on the news all we see are people repeating the mantra that Islam is a good religion “hijacked by a few extremists.” To say rubbish like this is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of Islam itself. These extremists are simply being better muslims than so-called moderates, according to the Qur’an.

There is a great deal of validity in what some of these right-wingers say about Islamic-extremism being the greatest threat the world faces, however with just a little knowledge of the history of this falsified, corrupt, and vile religion they would see that ISLAM itself is the world-threat and not “islamic-extremism” whatever that means.

the religiously tolerant apply this extremist vs moderate dichotomy to every religion they encounter in the world, when religions like Islam do not allow such categorizations. It is built into the creed of Islam that the Qur’an is the inerrant word of god as it has existed for eternity, and metaphoric interpretations of the scripture are not afforded. it is incredibly christian-centric view of the world, and a view that christians try to use to show their tolerance for other religions as an attempt to demand respect for their own equally ridiculous beliefs.

I despise the fact that the christian right has a stranglehold on this country’s politics, i despise the fact that you can have an ignorant religious bigot and science-denier like Huckabee or Romney make it to the quarterfinals in a race for this nations highest office, and I hate how the retardation of progressive thinking that is christian belief damages children psychologically and creates a polarized society… Don’t get me wrong, Christianity too is a religion that deserves no respect.

The fact of the matter is, I do not lose sleep at night wondering if Christians are going to rise up and slaughter my family and burn US embassies if i publish caricatures of Jesus. Over 100 lay dead over the same issue in 2006 during the muhammad cartoons fiasco.

Therefore, however misguided their motivation is in having a desire to denounce or erradicate Islam, I want to stand behind christianists as allies on this issue. Islam is a threat to anyone on the planet who breathes. read the Qur’an, read the history of Muhammad’s life. Stop the islamic apologizing in the media, call them out for what they are.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

Are you really afraid of some bearded Imam in London?
Why don’t you watch some white supremacist videos. Or extreme Zionist. And what about Hindu fundamentalists in India? Anyone can scream hate. But to fear it to the point of putting your CAPS LOCK KEYS on? I don’t think so. If you do not like nut jobs, stay out of their houses. REMEMBER YOU LIVE IN A COUNTRY THAT CAN BLOW UP THE ENTIRE WORLD. And that is a reality nightmare that the rest of the world can not wake up from.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment

Why does a person have to be religious in order to be spiritual? Where in all of the bloody Bible does it say anything about democracy? And in case you do not know, freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. To say:“these truths are to be protected at all costs and in some cases require the killing of others” says who? You?
To say that democracy is just another religion is incredibly short sighted. Of course the faith based initiative crowd love that kind of talk. Next they will be telling me that America is a Christian nation, whatever that means. God or whatever you want to call it, is between you and the great beyond. A person’s soul is their business and no one else. Liberty is not some religious tenant, it is something that humankind has been struggling to obtain for ages.
“Precious time is slipping away,
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray,
Precious time is slipping away.”
Van Morrison

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

Thank you for the posting cyrenna. As you know, the Ohio primary is coming up next month and I will participate. After much thought and observation, I have come to the conclusion that Barack Hussein Obama is the best candidate in the current field. For one thing, he is the only candidate who knows what food stamps are, having experienced his mother use them when he was growing up. Second, he has worked to improve the human condition at the grass roots level, something all the other posturing candidates can not say. Third, if you compare what Senator Obama says about this insane war with what Senator McCain claims, the choice is obvious.
For those who get charged up about Hillary being the first female President, I say not her, its time to put the Clinton crime family off of the stage. Make no mistake, if she is elected, the ghosts from Big Bill will haunt her administration from day one.
The symbolism of a President Obama can not be over estimated. Even now, much of the rest of the world is paying close attention to this election.
Obama might screw up. But after the eight years of the Cowboy Angel, that is a roll of the dice I am willing to take.

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By desertdude, February 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

To all the Christian bashers, I suggest you study what Islam has to say about our society and what they plan to do about it. Read some papers from the Middle East and learn what Islam plans for you and me. DEATH! They are out to kill us all. You say Christians are intolerant. You haven’t lived. See the Video of the American Imam preaching in London. He only loves and follows Allah and works for the destruction of America. Yet His religon is called a loving religon. WAKE UP AMERICA YOU ARE AIDING IN YOUR OWN DEATHS.

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By bogi666, February 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It it possible that these 3 are paid for their performances!DUH. The pretend christian churchianity-religionists and the phony preachers who are the Biblical Harlots[kjv] and their false doctrines[the rapture]which are the Fornications of the Bible,who sponsor this travesty are subsidized by the American taxpayers as they receive government services and are tax exempt. They also get captive audiences such as at the Air Force Academy.Their congregations of fools whom the preachers insult and abuse and then beg for money and the fools give them money. These donations are tax deductible. The gullibility and ignorance of American can’t be overestimated for allowing this to happen without a whimper.

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By cyrena, February 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

Some answers to the questions posed to David Harris..

•  Did Obama really attend a madrassa?

NO! I checked this out about 18 or so months ago, when these stupid e-mails first starting floating around. (a very early ‘swift boating exercise’). Barack didn’t attend a madrassa, but his family did live in Indonesia very briefly, when he was a pre-schooler. So, he may have attended some sort of pre-school, (I’ve not attempted to find any ‘enrollment records’ for him.). Since they were back in the States by the time he was 6 or 7, I think we can rule out the madrassa school attendance. (none in
KS back then)

•  What are his relations with Wright?

Wright is the Pastor at the Church that Obama attends. Barack Obama is not particularly ‘religious’. (ANOTHER reason for my own high regard) of him.)Now he may be more ‘religious’ than I (a long ago lapsed Catholic turned agnostic)So, he goes to church sometimes (I think because it was Michelle Obama’s church) and Wright happens to be the pastor there. And, he was the pastor there, before Obama became a member there. Those are his relations with Wright.

•  Why does he have former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (viewed as cool toward Israel) on his foreign policy team?

Key give-away to the swift-boating and planned ideological smear would be the words “viewed as”…blah, blah, blah..fill in the blanks.

Here is a very brief, objective, fact oriented ‘view’ of Zbig Brzezinski

From Wiki…though one could do more in-depth research if one is inclined…

“Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski (Polish: Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzeziński [‘zbigɲev bʐɛ’ʑiɲski]) : is a Polish-American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.”

Here’s more…

He is currently a professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a member of various boards and councils. He appears frequently as an expert on the PBS program The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

So, why does Obama have him as a foreign policy adviser on his CAMPAIGN team? I’d say it’s because of his background as a political scientist GEOSTRATIGIST and statesman. It’s also impressive (at least in my ‘view’ but then I’m an academic) that he is currently a prof at JHU’s School of Advanced Int’l Studies. (I’m hoping for a short internship there myself). Oh, he also helped broker the Camp David accords, which didn’t much help the Palestinians, but some in the region believed it helpful.  I’m not sure how anyone gets ‘cool toward Israel’ from that though.

NOW, that’s not to say that there are not OTHER people in the US holding similar credentials. So, I don’t know why he ‘chose’ Zbig, and to be honest, I never knew much about him. (wasn’t into politics or my studies much back then).

I know FAR more though, about Alan Dershowitz, the DEFENDER of TORTURE, and the one of the many who wrote friend of the court briefs to get Scooter Libby off, after he’d been convicted. (turns out they didn’t need them since georgie just wiped that right off the books).

And, just so we’re all on the same page here, DERSHOWITZ is the comparable position adviser to HILLARY CLINTON. So, if you’re not aware of the Dershowitz polities, maybe you should check them out, especially his call for legalizing torture. It’s the stuff of nightmares, sho’ ‘nuf…

Wish I could have found something far more exotically conspiracy oriented…like Barack’s ancestors were African cannibals or something. But, it’s just not all that exciting. In reality, he’s had a pretty standard life up to now.

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By jfior, February 11, 2008 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

In American Fascist, Hedges opens the first chapter with the following…

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.  If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

There is line that can be crossed where such hate speech should not tolerated….We the people need to decide where that line is quickly

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

Ever looked up fascism in the dictionary?

Its not a theocracy yet, but there’s a good many people who are pushing for it.

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By lawlessone, February 11, 2008 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The primary problem with most Christians is that they don’t really believe in or regularly practice the “Golden Rule” Christ advocated when he was alive. To their shame, all they adopted is his name.

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By Carrie, February 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s James Dobson not Dobbs. Your credibility within an argument will improve if you are able to accurately name your adversary.

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By cyrena, February 11, 2008 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

P.T.


I love this!! wink

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By lilmamzer, February 11, 2008 at 11:58 am Link to this comment

“Anybody else remember Frank Zappa going on CrossFire and stating clearly that America was becoming a fascist theocracy under Reagan?  They were so shocked they asked him to repeat it, so he did…he turned to the camera that drew up close and said it again. “

But it’s not a “fascist theocracy”, your hysterical rhetoric notwithstanding.

Zappa was great musician, but, like so many entertainers, he should have stuck to his music and stayed away from making embarrassing statements on national television.

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By Maani, February 11, 2008 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

Lefty:

Your broad-brush generalizations demand response.

The overwhelming majority of both Christians and Muslims worldwide practice their faiths quietly and privately, and do not subscribe to the fundamentalists and extremists within their faiths. To suggest that most, much less all, of the 1 billion Christians and 1 billion Muslims support the narrow, unloving, unforgiving positions of the priests, ministers, imams, mullahs and others at the extreme end of their faiths - much less the violence associated with those extreme positions - is not just wrong, but unnecessarily denigrating.

Peace.

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By P. T., February 11, 2008 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

This is beyond acrimony.

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By P. T., February 11, 2008 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Everybody has a right to defend themselves against Zionist expansionism.

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By P. T., February 11, 2008 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

The problem is Muslims happen to be sitting on top of huge amounts of oil.  And they’re not always cooperative regarding the oil.  So one needs to come up with a rationale for dropping bombs on them to get at the oil.

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

Excellent observation…let us hope that appearances are not deceiving.

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

^ I swear, you are on drugs or off your meds.  I don’t much care which, but you are mistaken.  I will not debate this with you or anyone else.  Buddhism is not and never has been a religion!  You can go to Wikepedia or some other source to get your instant knowledge so you can respond with your artificial/instant superior knowledge.  Rant all you want it doesn’t change the fact!  Your pretensions are just tiresome.  Just go to sleep and enjoy your tortured dreams.

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

I recommended Alan Watts to a person with no previous exposure.  I can read sanskrit (though not so well anymore), and i’ve written rather lengthy papers on Mahayana doctrine.  So save your lectures, oh wiser than thou one.

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

Absolutely.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Mr. Wicher, you are a cautious optimist. I do not know, or for that matter, have any idea what will be done about that fifty year plus hornet’s nest in the middle east. It is sobering to remember that Barack Obama is not only running for president, but is also attempting to overturn the sleazy, corrupt, entrenched power within the democratic party. That “new kind of democrat” nonsense perpetuated by the Clinton family that reduced national politics to a one party system with two branches: republican and republican light. That explains why there is no national health care and seemingly wars without end. My observation on the election is that if you put aside all media hype, the voters who support Sen. Obama do so not because he is a radical, but rather because he appears to be the most reasonable.

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By Douglas Chalmers, February 11, 2008 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

#By Expat, February 11: “Buddhism is not really a religion; it’s a way of thinking…. I live in a Buddhist country (95%) and I assure you it’s not a religion; just a way of looking at life…”

You know that’s not really true, Expat, uhh. But do you why…??? You have the seeming luxury of coming from a country steeped in the Western concepts of religion, false or not.

These people have “the one true path…” and nothing else, even if they are unable to personally attain enlightenment in this or several lives. It is not at all the same…...


#By jackpine savage, February 11: “...you don’t know much about Buddhism, do you? I suggest reading a book or two by Alan Watts. And i’m not a Buddhist…”


Alan Watts was OK for Westerners in the 1960’s or 70’s. Even the Tibetan Buddhists were around then. Its time you moved towards the source…....

Buddhism is NOT a Western religion but, then, neither is Christianity, really. Most of what make up Buddhism, the religion as opposed to Buddhism, the philosophy is very Eastern and very Tantric.

It does have its own value but can a Westerner really see this? Even many Asians struggle with Tantra. That is why there are a number of paths laid down for devotees and aspirants in Buddhism.

Theravada and Mahayana are not quite the same. There is a place for the devotion and worship of an enlightened state if not an enlightened being and appreciation of the related wisdom thus derived. There is also a stricter path for those who wish to follow the Buddha directly.

Pity that you can’t see Buddhism as you have seen Christianity - ”...the church fathers have never managed to subsume the goddess, much as they would like to…” for there is also a pantheon of saints male and female - and a female Buddha!

Perhaps the Western history of Buddhism is really only self-serving propaganda for the politically correct and the guilty of conscience? There are plenty of them around California…...

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

I believe Obama will eventually come around to a one democratic state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, simply because no two-state solution can really work. But it will take him a while to get to that point. Meanwhile, he is tacking in the political winds, trying to get elected. I note with hope that Zbigniew Brzezinski and not Alan Dershowitz is one of Obama’s principal foreign policy advisors. Brzezinski is neutral on Israel/Palestine and his presence on Obama’s staff does indicate the possiblity of evolution in this direction. That doesn’t make Obama a “Manchurian candidate” but a problem-solver and a peacemaker. Relax, Jews. Life after Zionism is going to be much better than you think.

I note with alarm all the racist garbage that is going on about Obama. There are videos all over the place insinuating that he is a Muslim terrorist. I have no doubt that COFU and Zionist extremists, in concert with good old-fashioned anti-black racists are spreading this stuff around.


By Roger Cohen, NYT


I believe Barack Obama is a strong but not uncritical supporter of Israel. That is what the Middle East needs from an American leader: the balance implicit in a two-state solution.

Yet it’s a tough position for Obama to hold in this presidential campaign because his Jewish credentials are under scrutiny.

On January 22, with Gaza sealed and the suffering of Palestinians prompting calls for a U.N. Security Council statement deploring their plight, Obama penned a strongly-worded letter of support for Israel.

“The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel, and should make clear that Israel has a right to defend itself against such actions,” Obama wrote to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Otherwise, he declared, it should not speak at all.

The Security Council remained silent; Obama’s still uncertain standing with Jews in the United States and Israel was strengthened. But rumors, many scurrilous, still swirl. Most have questioned the degree of his commitment to Israel.

“The biggest problem is a lack of familiarity, an exotic name and malicious assaults,” David Axelrod, who is Obama’s chief strategist, told me. “There’s no ambiguity in his position on the Middle East.”

The attacks, mainly anonymous e-mails, have woven together various threads — his middle name “Hussein;” schooling in Muslim Indonesia; his Chicago pastor’s embrace of the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan; and his calls for dialogue with Iran — to portray Obama as the Muslim Manchurian candidate.

Leading American Jewish organizations have denounced these “hateful e-mails.” Obama has condemned Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism and made clear he disagrees with his pastor, the Rev. Jerermiah A. Wright Jr., whose magazine honored Farrakhan last year. But he’s not broken with Wright, the man who ushered him to his Christian faith.

Some doubts clearly persist among U.S. Jews, who account for just 2 percent of the population but a higher percentage of voters, and one with wide influence. On a recent four-day trip to Florida, David Harris, the executive director of the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee, encountered the following questions:

Did Obama really attend a madrassa? What are his relations with Wright? Why does he have former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (viewed as cool toward Israel) on his foreign policy team?

“You could sum the concerns up as ‘does Obama feel Israel in his kishkas?’” Harris told me, using the Yiddish word for guts. “And does he have the steel and spine for the tough moments or believe diplomacy is the be-all and end-all of international relations?”

Rest of the article may be read at:

http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2008/02/11/opinion/l11cohen.html&tntemail0=y

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By Jim Yell, February 11, 2008 at 10:01 am Link to this comment
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Tolerance must be a two way street. If we have people who dislike the very idea of a Bill of Rights that protect not just themselves, but people with other and perhaps opposed value views, than we can not pretend that they are not dangerous to those who live with the values of a Bill of Rights.

I am very opposed to rigid Christian political action. We find ourselves at present with an ambitious fundamentalist preacher wanting and saying, “he would restructure the Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights” to follow the commands of the Bible. The scary thing that even Christian’s should realize about this type of announcement is he means not just a Fundamenalist view of what the Bible says, but his own selective view of what it says. Sadly the Bible contradicts itself with in its scriptures. Anyone trying to follow it literally will soon find themselves up to their knee caps in hypocrisy, or backed into a corner.

Saying this I have yet to see in Islam any ability to deal with multiculturalism. The Multiculturalism that has existed in the political history of Islam was not Islam, but political reality. Islam is consistent, if you don’t agree with them than you should be killed. Only a fool, and many fools did read Hitler’s Mien Kampf and dismissed it as venting.

We need a clear distance between our secular government and religion and sadly that means some sects and some religions are so hostile to the idea that they should not be allowed. But I mean that for both Christians and Moslems and any others that can’t bear to live in a democracy, moderated by a Bill of Rights.

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By Douglas Chalmers, February 11, 2008 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Quote: “These men are frauds, but this is not the point. They are part of a dark and frightening war by the Christian right against tolerance that, in the moment of another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil….. stoke these irrational fears…”

Very neat but very regressive. The whole issue of Moslems settlers/migrants in a white “settler society” is back on the Anglo WASP agenda with the furore in Britain this past week over the statements by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury supporting Sharia law in Moslem communities in Britain…....

UK rejects call for partial Sharia - Williams said that Sharia could be used to settle financial and marital disputes: “Britain has rejected a suggestion by the head of the Anglican Church that partial Islamic law be enforced in the country to allow Muslims to resolve marital and financial disputes, rather than through British courts….”.

But check the link for a video interview with Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali, professor of Islamic Law, discusses the issue: “Sharia is not exclusive….. it does not have any harmful consequences if the Moslem communtiy feels that there is a sense of give and take…” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2HOA3_C1YM

Also, Dr Rowan Williams said that it “seems inevitable” that elements of the Muslim law, such as divorce proceedings, would be incorporated into British legislation…. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/08/nrowan308.xml

And, Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, said that giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help to achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system… http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2254591,00.html

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

They’ve been doing that a lot lately, no?

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By Ed Amos, February 11, 2008 at 9:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges, who I admire greatly, helps us to see clearly which way “the wind is blowing”, writes an insightful article, but when he refers to the men as “scum”,  he is being dramatically unhelpful.  We should always seek to humanize rather than dehumanize the other.  How does calling them “scum” help us to understand them and name what seems to be going on with them.  When we call the other person scum dialogue breaks down and wars break out.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

Since this conversation has drifted into arguments about religions or the lack thereof, I offer this:
http://www.bartleby.com/196/171.html

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By Katinka, February 11, 2008 at 9:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The world would be a better place if people who pursue religion with such vigor pursued education instead. This country is led by a bunch of idiots!

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By Rodger Lemonde, February 11, 2008 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
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Religion, billions practice, dozens get it right.

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By Tony Wicher, February 11, 2008 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

So, you think your brand of narrow-minded, bigoted atheism is better?

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Bush didn’t make a “mistake” when he called the GWOT a crusade, maybe a Freudian slip…but he meant it.

What a horrible place we’ve come to.  But i guess i’m not surprised.  Fascism requires enemies…be they counter-revolutionaries, wreckers, Jews, Mexicans, or Muslims.

Anybody else remember Frank Zappa going on CrossFire and stating clearly that America was becoming a fascist theocracy under Reagan?  They were so shocked they asked him to repeat it, so he did…he turned to the camera that drew up close and said it again.

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

^ I don’t completely disagree with you.  May I suggest you calm down a bit?  Buddhism is not really a religion; it’s a way of thinking.  Faith has nothing to do with Buddhism; Buddhism totally denies the value of faith.  And so do I.  I agree with you; “In our society faith is the substitute for thinking and reading”, this is what you said and I agree.

KISS says,“James Dobbs and his followers are a terrible ideal of theocracy. Just a money making scheme for Dobbs and his chosen group of liars and hate mongers.  The worst part are the many true believers that give of the money and time to propagate this filth.”

Why would I disagree?  I don’t know why you would lump Buddhism in with religion, but I live in a Buddhist country (95%) and I assure you it’s not a religion; just a way of looking at life.
Peace…..truly

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

Check out the entry by zeitgeist in the “common enemy” thread, he references some strains of Christianity that would probably interest you.

The “official” history of the Christian Church is mostly propaganda.  The real history of Christianity is amazingly interesting…and not what you would expect to find. 

You’re right about that theory being the most prevalent, but it is so for the sake of the Church’s temporal power.  But even the Eastern Orthodox Church has different views on the trinity.  And remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Saints were worshiped almost more than Christ.  And in many places, Mary is still more important than Christ…the church fathers have never managed to subsume the goddess, much as they would like to.

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By jackpine savage, February 11, 2008 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

Respectfully, you don’t know much about Buddhism, do you?  It is a religion, but it doesn’t have a god per se.  The man who is commonly referred to as “the Buddha” is actually just the last buddha that the world has seen, but when you boil all the doctrine down, you find out that he was just a regular guy who “figured it out”.  This is somewhat more true for Mahayana Buddhism than it is for Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism.

The Sanskrit word for Buddha is Tataghata, which translates literally as “one who is thusness”.  The underlying doctrine is called the Tataghatagharba, or buddha embryo/matrix.  Under this doctrine it is axiomatic that we all (right down to the blades of grass) have this embryo, our full and true Buddha nature.  But our participation in this world of binary opposites dirties our true nature.  The path to enlightenment is a personal quest to clean our soul.  It requires no divine intervention, only right action.  When the soul is cleaned, its true, “divine” nature becomes reality.  Or rather, the reality that always was finally shines through.

Buddhists don’t pray.  And in the few cases where there is something close to prayer, it more like a meditation shortcut.  The only real exception to this is Pure Land Buddhism, but the prayers don’t bring the person praying to enlightenment, only a comfortable place.

Be careful lumping all religions and their practitioners together, it is really no better than the superstition, ignorance, and lies that you decry. Most religions have strains wherein there is wisdom that cannot be found in books. 

I suggest reading a book or two by Alan Watts.

And i’m not a Buddhist.

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By Carrie, February 11, 2008 at 8:22 am Link to this comment
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This is a classic example of the conundrum in which liberals become ensnared.  In an attempt to point out the intolerance of some Christian groups toward other religions and segments of society people engage in intolerant speech.  And the snide and quite frankly ignorant comments about Christianity only further exlemplifies the shallow understanding of the Church.  While groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council currently have a public voice they do not represent the whole of Christianity.  And yes while there are historical examples of “christians” hating and even killing non-christians, it can also be argued that this is not the true history of the Church.  In fact (historically speaking) the rise and assertion of the nation state as a dominant force is far more bloody and hate filled than the Church has ever been.  Yet I do not see a discussion here about the legitimacy of the nation state.  Rather the violence of the nation state is seen as legitimate and an acceptable tool in order to achieve “peace”.  I venture to say that what scares people most about Christians,Muslims and Jews is that they might actually beleive too much in their “religion”, causing them to pledge allegience to it rather than the nation state in which they reside. This as you know would be a challenge to the nation-state and may cause instability.  What it boils down too is they are free to worship as long as they do not take who they are worshiping too seriously.  Furthermore, it is not as if liberals are atheistic and have some how risen above the ideological struggles of religion.  They have simply replaced “religious” practices with “liberal” practices.  The sacred cow is now democracy which is embodied through “human rights”, “freedom of speech”, “tolerance”, and “freedom of religion”.  And all good liberals know that these truths are to be protected at all costs and in some cases require the killing of others.  I do not say this to make fun of or to degrade the importance of things such as human rights and other freedoms.  What I do wish to convey is that it is not as if Western, liberal, democracy is simply representing the obvious truth.  The problem that Christians, Muslims, Jews and Democracy has is that all who are involved believe what they possess THE absolute truth. You cannot uphold the principles of liberal democracy while at the same time working to defang and make impotent all the worlds religions.  If one were to succeed in doing this it could not be done without breaking a democratic principle.  For these reasons there are huge problems within liberal democracies themselves.

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

^ they were trying to convert the Roman polytheists.  So a pantheon of gods would be very appealing.  Thus the trinity (polytheist-many gods).  Look into this if you are actually interested.  Saturnalia (December 25th) was made into Christmas.  If the Christ actually existed he was not born on December 25th!  It’s a very interesting world out there; escape your shackles of western propaganda (ethnocentrism).

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

^ but your ignorance is showing.  On second thought, your not worth the effort.

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By Aegrus, February 11, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

I was under the impression most non-Catholics didn’t prescribe to the holy trinity as a serious part of their faith. I know Anglicans are pretty much in alignment with Catholic dogma, though.

Not only this, but the trinity is more aligned with a chimera being, all of which are God in different forms. I don’t think this is polytheistic. Just one supreme being existing in three different forms and existing in three different realms.

I’m no Christian scientist, but that theory seems to be the most prevalent or perhaps the most orthodox understanding.

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By KISS, February 11, 2008 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

And like all religion it is based on superstition and ignorance, and lies. In this vain all religions are the same, there is no difference.
James Dobbs and his followers are a terrible ideal of theocracy. Just a money making scheme for Dobbs and his chosen group of liars and hate mongers.
The worst part are the many true believers that give of the money and time to propagate this filth.
In our society faith is the substitute for thinking and reading.It is so easy to be deceived and be proud of the deception, when you are so lazy.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 11, 2008 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

Mr. Hedge’s post is a thoughtful comment on the xenophobic insanity that grips sadly, a substantial segment of this country. Although I do not and will not belong to any religion, I respect someone’s belief by recognizing that this is a personal, private matter. To put it another way: there are no questions asked at the grave. I have known people of many faiths, and anyone who marginalizes another because they don’t accept their own special brand of hocus-pocus, only reveals their own lack of understanding.

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By since1492, February 11, 2008 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

These three wannabes will be used like all the other media whores in America. Maybe even have their own show someday.
Hoa binh

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

^ is at Aegrus.

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By Expat, February 11, 2008 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

^ with you.  Very few Christians are monotheists.  In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones I know of in America who are monotheists (there may be others).  All of the others (Catholic, Protestants, Presbyters, etc.) are Trinitarians (polytheists).  Might I suggest you research comparative religions and the important differences between monotheism and polytheism?  The First Council of Nicaea (325) and the subsequent First Council of Constantinople (381) established the all important Nicene Creed.  This firmly established the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as the trinity.  You may find the Nicene Creed a rather obfuscating read.  I’m Buddhist, but, if I were a Christian I would most certainly be a monotheist (not a Jehovah’s Witness).  As it falls, I have no use for any religion.  Oh, and yes, Jews are monotheists.

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By Leefeller, February 11, 2008 at 7:11 am Link to this comment

Just cannot be, “born-again Christians, engage in hate speech”, must have to do with ties to the KKK and other Christian organizations of tolerance.  Hukster you dog you.

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By Aegrus, February 11, 2008 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

American Protestants have been deceived, yeah. However, Christian bigotry is not new. This arrogance isn’t even a uniquely American issue. It’s been around for a really long time, but only non-Christians seem to notice.

Machiavelli spoke about this use of piety to gain support from the masses. Powerful people have used religion always to prove their worth as an individual and to condemn their own enemies. Christianity has been the prime example for us in the West for the last thousand years or so.

I consider Christianity and all monotheism as purely political religions used only in order to gain power by homogenizing peoples around the world. Proselytizing people through violence, destroying the cultures of Europe and the Americas and stifling free-thought for ages.

Do I hate Christians, Jews and Muslims? No, I do not, for I am one of those few people who actually understand the meaning and importance of forgiveness. There will be no forgetting, though, of what monotheism really stands for, and that is power, corruption and unmerited self-righteousness.

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