Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Today in religious news, August 9th, 2009

Here are a few stories about religion making their way into the news feeds today:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Atheist sexual predator sues for access to “Satanic Bible”

The Sigil of Baphomet: emblem of the Church of...Image via WikipediaWell, while I am no position to judge the prisoner's sincerity, I am also in no position to say the reading materials of  a legitimate organized religion should be disallowed to a prisoner who requests them.

There is child sacrifice in the Christian Bible too, so I'm not certain that disqualifies the Satanic version. If it really is shown that allowing prisoners to have this book somehow causes more violence in prison, then the argument could be revisited.

But our freedoms aren't based on whether we agree with how other people choose to exercise them. If we start using that as the criterion for how to rule on these kinds of cases, who is to say that our own preferences won't eventually be deemed inappropriate or offensive?

Salvadoran ex-soldiers face extradition over murder of priests

 I am not sure whether "justice delayed is justice denied" or "better late than never" is more fitting for this story. Perhaps both are meaningful here. We are so used to viewing religion as we see it in the modern, industrialized nations of the developed world that we forget that in places torn by long wars, rocked political and social instability, and ravaged by poverty and corruption, many religious leaders can and do sometimes still speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Many of them are too busy with life and death and resisting assimilation or annihilation by brutal regimes to spend a majority of their time arguing with other religions or atheists over things like prayer in schools.

Church of England using Twitter to seek worldwide prayer for end to rioting

Many brief reactions here. One: good use of social media. Two: nice sentiment. Three: I'm skeptical about the prayer. On the last point, I would say that it depends on how the prayer is received. It's just my opinion, but I think intention is the key to a prayer like that. On some level it works its way into the deep consciousness of those hearing or reciting it, the greater its efficacy. The more it remains an external prayer directed to some deity "out there" somewhere, the less powerful it is. Of course, I tend to think that about all prayer, but this kind has a phrasing which people tend to associate with the latter kind of reaction.

This strikes me as petty. The separation of church and state protects both, and claiming that somehow the fact that the meeting is open to all justifies using the language from one exclusively is a non sequitor. If their meaning is that a Hindu or Muslim could also give a prayer, and end it "in Allah's name", then I would say that I'll believe in when I see it.

It's interesting to see a story on Sikhs in the United States. They face a great deal of misunderstanding and somehow their dress is mistaken as being Muslim, which only adds to the suspicion they face. I wonder, however, if you find that the story reads differently if you put "conservative Christian" in place of "Sikh".
Lest anyone think that Buddhism is inherently and automatically compatible with modern Western values, rest assured that Buddhists can be very conservative in Asia. If folks like Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, and Thomas Keating were to introduce Christianity to some newly discovered culture, it would appear as similarly open-minded and forward-thinking as Buddhism does to us in the West. But it's also a mistake to think all Asian Buddhists think and act alike, as this wonderful story about the singing nun reveals.

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