Friday, April 25, 2014

Facing The Buddha Belly

My two semesters of seminary classes just finished.  The primary thing that I learned from this is how the Buddha got his belly.  He spent too much time in religious studies and scripture reading and completely neglected exercise.  Than we have the fact that eating is a critical part of religion.  Thus, my weight went up to a record 238 pounds.

Now that the classes are done, I am switching to a Greek stoic/military method for bringing things back to a more sensible value.  This is fully appropriate, since my next task starting in the fall is to study Koine (Biblical) Greek.  For the summer semester, however, I will devote my energies to physical discipline and prepping Greek vocabulary.

This last week's exercise was a 2.5 mile swim each morning before work, for a total of 12.5 miles of swimming so far this week.  The other side of the stoic formula is restricting to one meal a day.  Thus, in ten days my weight is down to 225 pounds.  Hopefully I can keep it up.  Tomorrow will be a 2 hour swim, which should be about 3.5 miles.  The difficulty with this method is that it leaves me constantly fatigued and hungry.  Hopefully I can keep the discipline up for another month.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


The person who prepared this was clearly "all wet", since the label for "California" is on the Nevada side.  The mind starts playing tricks when you are a quarter way through the swim.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Islam for Jounalists

A copy of this tome is here.  The basic thesis is that 9/11 was a complete surprise to American journalists, and they found themselves knowing nothing about Islam.  Where were they educated??? Thus, a group of journalists and academics decided to put together a guide book explaining all about Islam.  Many claim to have gotten their opinions from having been there witnessing events unfold.  Obviously, only journalists and academics who say the correct things have ever been exposed to Islam.  After going through a third of the book, it appears to largely track the conventional ivory tower story that pre-dated 9/11.  Here are a few gems:

"ONE of the questions that academic specialists of Islam have long explored is: inasmuch as Islam spread over such a vast linguistic and cultural expanse, what held the community of Muslims together? After all, Islam has no pope, and it lacks the centralized ecclesiastical structure (a “church”) that undergirded religious organization in Western and Eastern Christianity. Even with its centralized church structure, Christianity experienced schisms far more regularly than did Islam."

T.E. Lawrence's (yes an exposed academic) comments on the tribal animosity he witnessed should be highlighted here.  This isn't any less abated today, and has led to the catastrophe of the "Arab Spring", which the authors ignore.  There is much, much more that can be said here, but I will need to stop.

"Women also played a central role in Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, as well as the green movement pressing for reform in Iran today. Religious conservatives in many countries sometimes condemn women’s activism as un-Islamic."

Yes, but they were enjoying a last hurrah as they overthrew the Shah, who permitted them to enjoy life.

I will pass over the ignorance about an Islamic Golden Age, since this ignorance has been addressed in many other places.

"POLITICAL Islam is a set of political movements, founded in the 1920s, that seek to establish an Islamic state."

Yes, but let's not forget the context:  The centuries old Turkish Empire was destroyed, and the West's enthusiasm for colonialism was on the wane.  Thus, this was the first opportunity for any ideology to stake a claim in several centuries.  What pops up first?

"ISLAM is a “revealed” religion, in the tradition of the biblical prophets. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was transmitted to the Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel during meditation sessions in a cave outside Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia."

Um, no.  It is not in the tradition of Biblical prophets, because the word of God came directly to Biblical prophets without an angelic intermediary.  Angels were sent to ordinary people at times, but this is to announce what God is doing or to explain a vision.  According to the Biblical standards, Muhammed was not a prophet.

"Qur’an literally means “The Work.” It represents the words of Allah as revealed to Mohammed. This is an important distinction from the Bible, which is a gathering of accounts of events. The Qur’an is said to be God’s own words, not the teaching of the Angel Gabriel or Mohammed."

When the authors of this book are done, I recommend that they spend some time and try to learn something correct about the Bible, classical Judaism, and Christianity.

"ISLAM has existed in America since the early days of the colonies. Some evidence suggests that Christopher Columbus was able to make his famous voyage to the U.S. with the help of Muslim navigators. It has been suggested that Muslims had actually arrived in the Americas before Columbus."

I suppose this comes from Washington Irving's secret notes used to prepare his story of Christopher Columbus.

"AS a number of studies have shown, Muslims in the U.S. are no different from any other religious group."

As everyone knows, all religions are alike.  They are social institutions, but don't actually believe anything.  Or at least they don't believe anything that isn't so utterly overwhelmed by other factors of society and life as to become totally meaningless.

"Fundamentalism. This term comes from an analogy with Christian Fundamentalism, a theological movement that also became widespread in the 1920s. Christian Fundamentalism treats the religion’s holy book as literal revelation; by this criterion, almost all Muslims qualify as fundamentalists, not just supporters of “Political Islam.” In recent years, however, some supporters of “Political Islam” have adopted an Arabic translation of the term “fundamentalism,” Usuliyya, from the word “usul” (foundations or fundamentals)."

This is about as good of a definition of Christian Fundamentalism as a modernist would be capable of, although I should emphasize that Fundamentalists take their scriptures seriously, which is more accurately what distinguishes them from non-Fundamentalists.  Of course this begs the question of why there are so many groups calling themselves Christians who reject the Bible, yet claim to honor it nonetheless?  And what would reality look like if religions actually did have distinct fundamentals?

"So-called “honor killings” have no basis in Islamic law, but are customary practices of patriarchal societies with a high sensitivity to shame. In effect, “honor killings” are much like the “unwritten law” that for years permitted Texas husbands to shoot adulterous wives and their lovers."

So am I supposed to deduce that Texas is like Islam?  Or Islam is like Texas.  And when was the last time that a Texas mob rioted and burned down a non-Texan neighborhood over an adulterous wife?  And is there no moral distinction between an adulterous wife/husband compared to Romeo and Juliet?

"Existing religious groups (first Jews and Christians, and later Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others) were given the legitimate status of “people of the book.” This recognition stands in contrast to the lack of any legal protection for non-Christian minorities (in particular, Jews) in Europe before the French Revolution."

Ah, the glorious French Revolution.  I am not a fan of government imposed sectarian warfare, but should we really rejoice that this was replaced by government imposed class warfare?  And what about the all powerful government that sees all sectarianism as pointless given the reality of the totalitarian state?  Then there are fundamental differences in the rule of law of Western countries as compared to Eastern countries.

The introduction to this text talks about Edward Murrow, and lauds him as the patron saint of journalism.  More accurately, he is the patron saint of "drive-by" journalism, not legitimate journalism.  I cannot fault the authors for failing to uphold the standards of their patron saint.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The New Ghetto Music

The old Ghetto Music was typically a big old American car driving along blasting out some sort of rock and roll music.  This got updated to a string of profanity, rage and violence strung together in rapid succession with a rhythm, but not a tune which was designated "rap".  Another variant was the ultra-bass in a car with the windows rolled up.  This acted like a high frequency filter so that the overall sensation of being near the car was not too different from the low frequency thumping of a helicopter flying overhead.  The latest twist on this is some Indians or Pakistanis driving around in an SUV with loud Indian singing and music played at a volume sufficient to entertain everyone within 100 meters.  What is really disturbing about this is that I can't understand the lyrics and have no way to determine whether I should be pleased or offended.  Yes, the times are a-changin'.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Stranger to History part 2

I finished this book and gave it to another young friend of mine who is interested to learn more about the Middle East.  Part of me wanted to hang on to it to mine it for quotes.  The other said it was better to let someone else have a read.

There were a few additional thoughts that jumped out at me.  The first was about how the Muslims who fled what is now India to go to Pakistan at the time of the partition have still not been assimilated to their new homeland, even though most of them were born there.  This reminds me of the Palestinian problem where the refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan haven't been assimilated either.  On the other hand, the non-Muslim Indians who fled Pakistan have been all assimilated, thus, the argument is that this is really a problem stemming from tribalist tendencies of Islam.  Then there is Israel itself, which has assimilated Jews from all over the world.

Another idea is the notion that Islam must be absolutely dominant for its full virtuous effects to be felt.  This was stated by a number of ideologues.  Thus, even as Muslim countries spin economically out of control, there is the never ending hope that all this could be rectified if only a purer religion could be enforced.  This stands in contrast to my view that it is impossible for Christians to be absolutely dominant.  The reason is that as Christianity obtains more power, the top religious posts become far too attractive to closet atheists and the like, thus, precluding Christians from ever being dominant.  Unless God should choose to step in and do something different.  Anyway, the only absolute authority Christians expect is that absolute authority of the anti-Christ.  Then the end times will follow, but that will be God's doing, not ours.

The story of Iran was one where petty rules and lax enforcement resulted in a complete mockery of Islamic law.

A final point was the observation that in the countries Aatish visited, protests and riots were something spontaneous.  Instead, it was a combination of governmental planning and Imams stoking up the faithful.