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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Comments on the controversial comments by Pope Benedict XVI:

I've read the text of the address, and what seems to be the problem is a few paragraphs. I have copied the relevant paragraphs below:

"In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

"Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

"As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

"I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 'logos.'"

"This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word -- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. "

While all of Islam is not reflected by their most radical leaders, they certainly are the most vocal at this time. From what I read, the Pope greatly condemned the use of violence to advance religious agendas, and called for more reasoned dialog between the Muslim and Christian worlds. The implied message was a call for their elders to take their youth in hand and set them straight. As a result of this, churches have been burned, a nun far greater than Mother Theresa was murdered, and worse may happen still. More analysis is here, but this should have been a tempest in a teapot. Instead, terrorists are using this as further "proof" of why a jihad is needed. Many of these same groups, if Pope Benedict XVI were to read the weather report, would cite this as a further example of his hatred of Islam. I'm no Catholic, but I think it would be far more accurate to say that Pope Benedict XVI abhors violence in the name of religion, and I'm sure this is a position with which most can agree. I may not always like or agree with Pope Benedict XVI, but I think he had a point.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random food thoughts

I went out of town recently, just a short day trip, and needed to pick up something at the store, so, I went to this large grocery store that was on the way. One of my favorite areas of any grocery store is the ethnic food aisle, since that's just about the only part of any store I know I'll find something I probably haven't tried before. I saw this soda I'd never seen before: Sidral Mundet. Since I have a friend who has travelled abroad, I do know what the Spanish word "manzana" means, and even if I didn't, I know what a picture of an apple looks like. :P It was a 1.5 litre container for right around $2 or thereabouts, so I figured, why not take it home, get it nice and cold, and try it? I'm not a huge fan of apple juice, but it looked interesting, and besides, my friend had had something similar during his travels and had mentioned how good it was. I do, however, love a good cider, both plain and when used as part of wassail. I'm very glad I did. I learned later that "sidra" means "cider", something part of me figures should've known from the beginning, but I digress. I tried it, and the next time I'm out that way, I'll buy two or three of them. It's a much more interesting flavor than I was expecting: Definitely apple, but more like the cider upon which the name of this particular product was based. I should have also picked up the Sangria Se├▒orial, but I didn't. Perhaps next time I'm out that way, I'll pick some up.

On a different note, I have two entries into the "What the HELL?!" column. First, I'd never heard of Lonelygirl15 on YouTube, and I may be one of only four people in the United States to have never even visited the YouTube website. Also, I'm almost 30, and that probably puts me above the age of the target audience. That said, I can't understand how anyone could be surprised by at least the possibility of this happening. This is a public website where people can post their videos of either real or creative content, and that includes the possibilty (in this case, realized) of acting. My opinion, therefore, is this: Ms. Rose is obviously a good actress, and my first instinct is that I hope some crazed fan doesn't decide to express their disappointment or anger in a direct manner. Bah.

And finally, for the entry into the "bullshit" column, there's the recent arrest of Duane "Dog" Chapman, Leland Chapman, and Timothy Chapman. They find and capture this serial rapist, and they're the ones arrested. Fucking bullshit. They should be given a medal, not bracelets. That's all for now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11/01: Five Years Later

I have seen plenty of people wearing their red, white, and blue outfits. I've seen American flag headwraps. I've seen the ribbons, the makeshift memorials, and the recollections shown on CNN and elsewhere in lieu of actual news. Before I continue on my rant, I want to make absolutely clear that I believe we should never forget the sad events of 9/11/01. I believe we should never forget those who were lost on United Flight 93, or the Pentagon, or the World Trade Centers. I believe we should never forget their families and friends. The terrorist hijackings of 9/11/01 is the second-worst event I've seen during my lifetime, and I do not wish to demean this at all.

All that said, I believe the time has come for us as a nation to move on with our lives. Are we going to be mourning this event in such a maudlin manner ten years, fifteen, twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years hence? I know many of you have lost loved ones in the past, and it is in this sense that I mean to move on. I feel the best way to remember the victims is to remember their loss and to remember their families and friends, but not to engage in this maudlin, self-flagellating bullshit. The time for wearing sackcloth and ashes is over. The time to bring those responsible to justice, either in this life or by sending them to the next, is now and began the moment the first plane hit the building. Five years after Pearl Harbor, this nation did not have parades, or 24/7 coverage of nothing on the various television stations. The time has come for us to remember that bit of wisdom from our grandparents and stop giving the terrorists even this small bit of legitimacy by treating the anniversary of this horror as tantamount to a national holiday. We were hurt that terrible day. However, this nation was once great and has no excuse not to be again, and our resolve should be no less than it was five years ago, though this resolve should be tempered by wisdom, a wisdom I have not seen nearly as much as one might hope.

As for how I've observed the fifth anniversary of 9/11/01, well, I showered, went to work (wearing something that was NOT red, white, or blue), and basically treated it like a Monday. Last year, well, I was probably having a severe anxiety attack for reasons unrelated to the anniversary and everything to do with the tropics. Next year, who knows? However, my opinion on this is not likely to change.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Stan Lee: Brilliant artist, useless as a television personality.

I could have put "I am dead, and this is hell," but I have a good bit of life left in me, and I've already said that this is hell before, I think. I can't quite be bothered to check the 169 prior rants I've done on this blog. To those of you who may be unaware, Stan Lee, the brilliant artist who introduced the world to Spiderman and other very popular comic book superheroes, now has his own reality show. I've caught The Real World, Road Rules, Survivor, Big Brother, The Surreal Life, and even a few seconds of that crappy show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. However, I have truly seen what is digesting in the bowels of Satan himself, and it is Stan Lee's reality show, "Who Wants To Be a Superhero?" I really see no need to elaborate on the show, since even the title reeks of the type of dreck this show vomits from the television screen in every episode. If I weren't a bit odd already, this might've warped mah fragile little mahnd. As it is, it has obviously brought about an Eric Cartman moment, and, while that's... interesting, it is not all that scary.

On a different note, my deepest condolences go out to the friends and family of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. His work educated and entertained hundreds of millions of children and adults alike and helped make others more aware of the beauty and wonder in nature, and he will be sorely missed.

Finally, I took an ethical philosophy selector test, and, according to the test, my personal philosophy was most similar to Baruch Spinoza (top rank) and the Stoics (second). There's no particular point in this statement. I just think it's interesting.