Harris & Dawkins on Science and Morality


“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence.

If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?”

                                                                     Sam Harris

   

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins discuss science and morality.
At The Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford.

“Religion for Atheists” An Interview with Alain de Botton


“Even if religion isn’t true, can’t we enjoy the best bits?”

Allan de Botton gave this interview for Talking Philosophy about his new book Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.

You were brought up as an atheist – could you describe your earlier views on religion and how you came to have a more positive view of religion and religious practices?

Allain de Botton

In my book, I argue that believing in God is, for me as for many others, simply not possible. At the same time, I want to suggest that if you remove this belief, there are particular dangers that open up – we don’t need to fall into these dangers, but they are there and we should be aware of them. For a start, there is the danger of individualism: of placing the human being at the center stage of everything. Secondly, there is the danger of technological perfectionism; of believing that science and technology can overcome all human problems, that it is just a matter of time before scientists have cured us of the human condition. Thirdly, without God, it is easier to loose perspective: to see our own times as everything, to forget the brevity of the present moment and to cease to appreciate (in a good way) the miniscule nature of our own achievements. And lastly, without God, there can be a danger (note the tentative can) that the need for empathy and ethical behaviour is more easily overlooked – in other words, that evil becomes less incongruous.

Now, it is important to stress that it is quite possible to believe in nothing and remember all these vital lessons (just as one can be a deep believer and a monster). I simply want to draw attention to some of the gaps, some of what may be missing, when we dismiss God too brusquely.

In your book you write: ‘God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inacurracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes. ‘ What are those urgent issues?

I am not very interested in the doctrines of religions. What interests me is their organisational forms, and in particular, their capacity to make ideas powerful.

The secular world tends to trust that if we have good ideas, we will be reminded of them when it matters. Religions don’t agree. They are all about structure; they want to build calendars for us that will make sure that we regularly encounter reminders of significant concepts. That is what rituals are: they are attempts to make vivid to us things we already know, but are likely to have forgotten. Religions are also keen to see us as more than just rational minds, we are emotional and physical creatures, and therefore, we need to be seduced via our bodies and our senses too: this was always the great genius of Catholicism. If you want to change someone’s ideas, don’t only concentrate on their ideas, concentrate on their whole selves.

The starting point of religion is that we are children, and we need guidance. The secular world often gets offended by this. It assumes that all adults are mature – and therefore, it hates didacticism, it hates the idea of guidance and moral instruction. But of course we are children, big children who need guidance and reminders of how to live. And yet modern education denies this. It treats us all as far too rational, reasonable, in control though to my mind, we are far more desperate than the modern education system recognises.

In a recent review of your book Terry Eagleton wrote that:  “What the book does, in short, is hijack other people’s beliefs, empty them of content and redeploy them in the name of moral order, social consensus and aesthetic pleasure. It is an astonishingly impudent enterprise. It is also strikingly unoriginal. Liberal-capitalist societies, being by their nature divided, contentious places, are forever in search of a judicious dose of communitarianism to pin themselves together, and a secularised religion has long been one bogus solution on offer.”

What do you make of this criticism?

My book occupies a curious middle-ground which is easy to shoot at from two sides. The very religious like Eagleton may take offence at the brusque, selective and unsystematic consideration of their creeds. Religions are not buffets, they will protest, from which choice elements can be selected at whim. But I disagree. Why should it not be possible to appreciate the depiction of modesty in Giotto’s frescoes and yet bypass the doctrine of the annunciation, or admire the Buddhist emphasis on compassion and yet shun its theories of the after-life? For someone devoid of religious belief, it is no more of a crime to dip into a number of faiths than it is for a lover of literature to single out a handful of favourite writers from across the canon.

Atheists of the militant kind could also feel outraged, in their case by a book that treats religion as though it deserved to be a continuing touchstone for our yearnings. They will point to the furious institutional intolerance of many religions, and to the equally rich, though less illogical and illiberal, stores of consolation and insight available through art and science. They may additionally ask why anyone who professes himself unwilling to accept so many facets of religion – who feels unable to speak up in the name of virgin births, say, or to nod at the claims reverently made in the Jataka tales about the Buddha’s identity as a reincarnated rabbit – should still wish to associate himself with a subject as compromised as faith.

To this the answer is that religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with practical involvement in education, fashion, politics, travel, hostelry, initiation ceremonies, publishing, art and architecture – a range of interests which puts to shame the scope of the achievements of even the greatest and most influential secular movements and individuals in history. For those interested in the spread and impact of ideas, it is hard not to be mesmerised by examples of the most successful educational and intellectual movements the planet has ever witnessed.

What is your view of the so-called New Atheist critique advanced by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others?

Attempting to prove the non-existence of god can be entertaining. Tough-minded critics of religion have found much pleasure in laying bare the idiocy of believers in remorseless detail, finishing only when they felt they had shown up their enemies as thorough-going simpletons or maniacs.

Though this exercise has its satisfactions, the real issue is not whether god exists or not, but where one takes the argument to once one decides that he evidently doesn’t. The premise of my book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless to find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling – and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.

One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Fivefold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring. In a world beset by fundamentalists of believing and secular varieties, it must be possible to balance a rejection of religious faith with a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts.

It is when we stop believing that religions have been handed down from above or else that they are entirely daft that matters become more interesting. We can then recognise that we invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply-rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pyramidion’s editorial policy.

Salafis to Hindus & Buddhists: Reconvert Back to Islam


Editor’s note:

‘Keep out of politics’ .. this used to be the golden advice most Egyptian parents hoped their youngsters would abide by in order to actually stay out of trouble in a country that never allowed dissent. But the kids never listen … they heed not the warning, It’s part of their nature I presume.

May be taking to the streets and occupying Tahrir square, mostly by the youths, is something new to Egyptians, and must have been the surprise of a lifetime for a lot of the elder generation. Throughout their long history and whenever things got so bad Egyptians would spontaneously dish out jokes about politics and policy makers.

 ‘Telling jokes’ has always been their way of voicing out their dissent. They would sometimes tell jokes about themselves exposing many negative aspects in their lives. Even after the 25 January revolution, and recognizing the bitter fact that things haven’t really changed that much, Egyptians are keeping this legacy of political satire alive … and hilariously entertaining.

Indian government comes under fire as Salafis turn their attention eastward

 

El Koshary Today, Cairo - The Egyptian Salafi movement has accused the Indian government of holding captive millions of Hindus and Buddhists who had allegedly been Muslims in a previous life.

“These people had converted to Islam at some point in the distant past and they are now being kept hidden inside Buddhist temples and ashrams all over South Asia,” said Salafi leader Mohammed Hareeqa- harreqa means fire in Arabic- while ominously playing with a box of matches.

“We have given the Indian government a one month ultimatum before we smoke these captives out and reclaim them as true, properly bearded Muslim men and properly veiled Muslim women,” Hareeqa told MSM, unaware that a small part of his own beard had caught on fire when he dramatically ignited a match while saying “smoke them out.”

Meanwhile, nearly two thousand Salafis are planning to travel to Bangkok next week to protest against the huge number of Buddhists who were allegedly Muslims in previous lives but now either don’t remember or don’t seem to care.

Interestingly, when a MSM reporter pointed out to Hareeqa that Islam does not recognize reincarnation, he contracted his eyebrows: “I admit I never actually read the entire Koran — have you seen how heavy that book is? — but if their own religion says reincarnation exists and they believe they were Muslims previously, then we have to respect … uhh, wait … oops.”

The Salafis’ shift towards Asia comes after two incidences where their members were incensed by separate rumors of Christian women converting to Islam before being abducted by reportedly Mossad-trained Copts and hidden inside churches.

Hosni Mubarak

During a rally earlier this week, Hareeqa had said: “Copts are trying to control their women and hide them, but they are forgetting just who invented the niqab and the burqa. The art of hiding women is our territory, not theirs!”

Hareeqa first rose to notoriety when he attacked the Dalai Lama at a UN conference in Geneva last year, grabbing the lama by his crimson/yellow galabeya-robe- and bellowing into his face: “WERE YOU MUSLIM IN BREVIOUS LIFE??”

The Dalai Lama reportedly had to meditate for ten days straight after the attack in order to regain the ability to smile again.

In related news, former President Hosni Mubarak is reportedly aiming to be reborn as the building of a Swiss bank in Zurich for his next life. He is widely believed to have been La Vache qui Rit’s iconic laughing cow in his previous life.

An atheist at Christmas: Oh come all ye faithless


“If the nativity to you is nothing more than a fairytale, how do you handle Christmas?”

“Much of what is best about Christmas is entirely unrelated to the story of the birth of Christ. It revolves around themes of community, festivity and renewal which predate the context in which they were cast over the centuries by Christianity.

Alain De Botton

Alain de Botton: Our youngest has proudly been playing the innkeeper in the school nativity play. Photograph: Franck Allais

Christmas is inevitably a rather problematic time for atheists. Does one sour the mood, somewhere between the turkey and the pudding, and overtly declare the entire festivity is built on the naivety and, if one’s feeling particularly spiky, the blatant stupidity of one’s ancestors? Or does one simply fill up the stocking, sing Away In A Manger and go with the occasion in a spirit of politeness?

In this area, I wasn’t reared for compromise. I was brought up in a devoutly atheistic household, by a father who made Richard Dawkins look open-minded on the matter of there perhaps being a supreme being. I recall him reducing my sister to tears in an attempt to dislodge her notion that a reclusive god might dwell somewhere in the universe. She was eight at the time. If any members of their social circle were discovered to harbour clandestine religious sentiments, my parents would start to regard them with the sort of pity more commonly reserved for those diagnosed with a degenerative disease and could from then on never take them seriously again.

Christmas was a particular testbed of loyalties. At its approach, my parents would go into overdrive, stressing the absurdity of all its rituals, art, songs and traditions. They weren’t so cruel as to deny their children presents – but to make the point, they insisted on giving them to us in August. This wasn’t a problem. It was rather special. I went through childhood feeling rather sorry for people vulgar enough to have Christmas trees and advent calendars: hadn’t they understood?

Then, in my mid-20s, I underwent a crisis of faithlessness. It began with a re-evaluation of Christmas – and gradually spread to religion as a whole. My feelings of doubt began one year when I was invited to spend Christmas at the home of a Christian friend. He had evidently taken pity on me. At the time, I was single, professionally adrift and obviously lonely – and when he suggested I might like to test my prejudices and come for a bit of lunch (playfully promising there would be no attempts to save my soul, or at least not till after the main course), I didn’t even pretend to put up a fight. Needless to say, the occasion was eye-opening in the extreme. I felt I was doing something very taboo simply by pulling a cracker. There was warmth, jollity, music, even moments of faith that no longer felt especially alien or daft. As lunch spread out across a lazy afternoon, I began to face up to the full scale of my ambivalence regarding the doctrinaire principles with which I had been inculcated in childhood. I never wavered in my certainty that God did not exist. I was simply liberated by the thought that there might be a way to engage with religion without having to subscribe to its supernatural content.

Christams festivities

It should be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find occasions such as Christmas useful, interesting and consoling – and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain religious ideas into the secular realm. The real issue is not whether God exists, but where one takes the argument to once one decides he evidently doesn’t. We invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day: the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses; and the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise. God may be dead, but the urgent issues that impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the five loaves and two fishes.

In turning our backs on all aspects of religion, we allow it to claim as its exclusive dominion areas of experience that should rightly belong to all mankind – and that we should feel unembarrassed about reappropriating for the secular realm. Early Christianity was itself adept at appropriating the good ideas of others, aggressively subsuming countless pagan practices which modern atheists now tend to avoid in the mistaken belief that they are indelibly Christian. Much of what is best about Christmas is entirely unrelated to the story of the birth of Christ. It revolves around themes of community, festivity and renewal which predate the context in which they were cast over the centuries by Christianity. Many of our soul-related needs are ready to be freed of the particular tint given to them by religions – even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religions that often holds the key to their rediscovery and rearticulation.

For an atheist to make friends with Christmas is likely to annoy partisans on both sides of the debate. Christians might take offence at the selective and unsystematic consideration of one of their holiest festivals. Religions are not buffets, they will protest, from which choice elements can be selected at whim. However, the downfall of many a faith has been its unreasonable insistence that adherents must eat everything on the plate. Why should it not be possible to appreciate the depiction of modesty in portraits of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, yet bypass the doctrine of the annunciation; admire Christianity’s emphasis on compassion, yet shun its theories of the afterlife? For someone devoid of religious belief, it may be no more of a crime to dip into aspects of faith than it is for a lover of literature to single out a few favourite writers from across the canon.

Atheists of the militant kind may also feel outraged, in their case by an approach that treats religion as though it deserved to be a continuing touchstone for our yearnings. They will point to the furious institutional intolerance of many religions, and to the equally rich, though less illogical and illiberal, stores of consolation and insight available through art and science. They may additionally ask why anyone who professes himself unwilling to accept so many facets of religion – who feels unable to speak up in the name of virgin births, say – should still wish to associate himself with a subject as compromised as faith. To this the answer is that religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with practical involvement in a range of interests – education, fashion, politics, travel, publishing, art and architecture – which puts to shame the scope of the achievements of even the greatest secular movements and individuals in history.

At Christmas, without any naivety (without forgetting the Inquisition, the Crusades and those many very corrupt priests), it should be possible to sidestep religions’ more dogmatic aspects in order to be nourished by aspects of them that remain consoling to sceptical contemporary minds. I have tentatively been celebrating it for a number of years now. My wife (educated by nuns, theology degree from Oxford) and I began things very modestly indeed, with a metallic light-up “tree” from Habitat and a Marks & Spencer oven-ready turkey, sprouts and potato combo. The whole thing, with present swapping, was over in 40 minutes flat. We felt very special. But we’ve had children since and this brings atheists into line like nothing else. Our youngest has proudly been playing the innkeeper in the school nativity play. Both our children sing of Jesus’s love with gusto.

I don’t mind in the least. I’m interested in the emotions underneath these rituals, not the specifics, and really what is at stake is a celebration of family and of love. One would have to be truly unconfident about the human capacity to mature to be offended by the credulity Christmas provokes in people under 10. Given our kids also believe in ghosts and their father’s dexterity at football, there is plenty of time to sort things out down the line. I have resisted a Christmas tree, though. I stressed to my children that almost half of Christians celebrate Christmas during a warm season – and so, at the suggestion of our eldest son, our presents are now arranged around a Christmas cactus, richly decorated with cut-outs of the holy family.

For an atheist, one of the most interesting functions of Christmas is its fostering of a spirit of community. We live in a crowded but lonely world. The public spaces in which we typically encounter others – commuter trains, jostling pavements – conspire to project a demeaning picture of our identities, which undermines our capacity to hold on to the idea that every person is necessarily the centre of a complex and precious individuality. It can be hard to stay hopeful about human nature after a walk down Oxford Street. Locked away in our private cocoons, our chief way of imagining what other people are like has become the media, and as a consequence we naturally expect all strangers will be murderers, swindlers and paedophiles. Solitary though we may have become, we haven’t of course given up all hope of forming relationships. In the lonely canyons of the modern city, there is no more honoured emotion than love. However, this is not the love of which religions speak, not the expansive, universal brotherhood of mankind; it is a more jealous, restricted and ultimately meaner variety. It is a romantic love that sends us on a maniacal quest for a single person with whom we hope to achieve a lifelong and complete communion, one person in particular who will spare us any need for people in general.

The rituals of Christmas reflect a deep understanding of our loneliness. I am a great admirer of carol services, of being crammed together with strangers in a warm communal atmosphere akin to that of a pop concert or nightclub when people sway their arms to the music and (for a brief moment) it feels almost possible to love everybody without reserve. The composition of a typical congregation at a service feels significant. Those in attendance tend not to be uniformly of the same age, race, profession or educational or income level; they are a random sampling of souls united only by their shared commitment to certain values. A service or mass actively breaks down the economic and status subgroups within which we normally operate, casting us into a wider sea of humanity. We are urged to overcome our provincialism and our tendency to be judgmental – and to make a sign of peace to whomever chance has placed on either side of us.

King's college chapel- East glass window

And it is one of the few times of the year that one can appreciate the sheer beauty of functioning ecclesiastical architecture. The crafted timber door and 300 stone angels carved around the porch signal to us that we have now stepped into a zone marked by relationships quite unlike those of the offices, gyms and living rooms of the secular world. I can never forget a carol service I attended at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge a few years ago: it was the closest I ever came to conversion. Until atheists learn to use architecture as well as religions, they will be missing a vital point about what seduces human minds. Books alone aren’t convincing objects, compared with a choir singing a Bach cantata in a gothic building.

It is no coincidence that food and its communal consumption looms so large in considerations of Christmas. Sitting down at a table with a group, some of whom will be strangers, has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a long meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment – disrupts our ability to cling to hatreds. Religions know enough about our sensory, non-intellectual dimensions to be aware that we cannot be kept on a virtuous track simply through the medium of words. They know that at a meal they will have a captive audience who are likely to accept a trade-off between ideas and nourishment – and so they turn meals into disguised ethical lessons. They stop us just before we have a first sip of wine and offer us a thought that can be swilled down with the liquid like a tablet. They make us listen to a homily in the gratified interval between two courses.

The secular world often sees in rituals such as communal singing or eating a loss of diversity, quality and spontaneity. Religion seems bossy. But at its finest this ritual-based bossiness enables fragile but important aspects of life to be identified and shared. Those of us who hold no religious or supernatural beliefs still require regular, ritualised encounters with concepts such as friendship, community, gratitude and transcendence. We need institutions that can mine, harvest and mould precious ideas for us, remind us that we need them and present them to us in beautiful wrappings – thus ensuring the nourishment of the most forgetful sides of ourselves.

The wisdom of the faiths belongs to all of mankind, even the most rational among us, and, throughout the liturgical year, deserves to be selectively reabsorbed. Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone.

Alain de Botton’s new book, Religion For Atheists, is published by Hamish Hamilton on 26 January at £18.99. To pre-order a copy for £14.24, including free UK p&p, visit the Guardian Bookshop.

Editor’s note:

 I find Botton’s argument very admirable and relevant not only for the atheists’ dilemma of how big a chunk of the religion cake they have to relinquish and leave behind, but also for the believers of all faiths who subscribe to their religions only for the sake of mere spiritual gratification even if it meant buying into the religious fairy tales. 

king Hassan II mosque in Morocco, The eastern glass window and door

From my first hand experience, I could attest to the fact that the majority of ordinary Muslims when listening to the Quran they don’t focus on interpreting its verses or validating their historicity, rather they dwell in the pleasing and somehow tuneful recitation by the sheikh.

 And likewise in Hij-annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a ritual that has been practiced for centuries of paganism before Islam- Muslim pilgrims are captivated by the dissolving of their egos into a bigger entity of millions who come from all corners of the world and from all ages and walks of life and experience maybe what the pagans felt when they used to perform the very same rituals  around Kabba.

And as botton put it “Many of our soul-related needs are ready to be freed of the particular tint given to them by religions – even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religions that often holds the key to their rediscovery and rearticulation.”

Most Muslims are not experts on Sharia and many of them have no idea what the word means, but when it comes to celebrating the fasting month of Ramadan or Eid with all the entailed festivities and gatherings, something that all humans need and crave for, that is when they can unambiguously define and relate themselves to Islam.

Islamic Cleric Warns Cucumbers too Sexy for Women


Cairo/ bikyamasr:  An Islamic cleric based in Europe said that women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any “sexual thoughts.”

The unnamed sheikh, who was featured in an article on el-Sawsana news, was quoted saying that if women wish to eat these food items, a third party, preferably a male related to them such as a father or a husband, should cut the items into small pieces and serve them.

He said that these fruits and vegetables “resemble the male penis” and hence could arouse women or make them think of sex.

He also added carrots and zucchini to the list of forbidden foods for women.

The sheikh was asked how to keep an eye on women when they are out grocery shopping and whether holding these items at the market should be banned for them. The cleric answered saying this matter is between them and God.

Answering another question about what to do if women in the family like these kind of food, the sheikh advised that a family male member would take the food and cut it for them in a hidden place so they cannot see it.

The opinion has stirred a storm of mockery and denouncement among Muslims online, with hundreds of comments ridiculing the cleric.

One reader said that these religious clerics give Islam “a bad name” and another commented “he is a retarded person and he must quit his post immediately”.

Others called him a fame-seeker, but no official responses from renowned Islamic scholars have been published on the statements.

Editor’s note:Though this story lacks enough investigative journalism, as the name of the sheikh was not specified, nevertheless, I decided to mirror it in Pyramidion … you know I’ve heard and seen such weird stories so many times before, I don’t find them unfamiliar anymore. But this sanctimonious silliness was too hilarious to pass unflagged.

Prostitution & homosexuality to prevail in Saudi if women drive


Pyramidion editorial note:

This post is not meant to ridicule the latest Fatwa- pious creed- by the highest legislative council in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, albeit so ridiculous.  Rather we’re trying to reveal the absurdity and the obscurantism that result from embracing dogmatic teachings and beliefs that defy reason and modernity.

 

We also believe this to be a timely alarm bell for moderate Islamic states, like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, who came out of the Arab spring supporting the political Islam parties- totally loyal to and funded by Saudi wahhabis- whose agenda include the literal interpretation and outdated implementation of the Sharia strict laws. 

Overlooking the Koran’s golden rule of thumb “No compulsion in religion” is bound to strip Islam of the very essence of tolerability and would further enhance the post-911 Zionist depiction of Islam as the new global enemy to western values of respecting freedoms and women’s rights.

If women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, the result would be catastrophic and lead to “no more virgins,” said clerics from the Majlis al-Ifta al-Aala, the country’s highest religious council.

Women in the country have been pushing to drive, and a number of women have driven in protest to the ultra-conservative country’s ban on female drivers in recent months.

They face public lashings, jail and ostracism if discovered driving in the only country in the world where women are not allowed to take the wheel.

The report from the Majlis, in coordination with former professor at King Fahd University Kamal Subhi, reported their findings to the Shura Council, the country’s legislative assembly.

It warned that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.”

Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the Islamic kingdom.

The ‘scientific’ report claims relaxing the ban would also see more Saudis – both men and women – turn to homosexuality and pornography.

It comes after a previous report stated women should cover their faces in order to avoid showing off “tempting eyes” to men in the country.

Tempting eyes .. or scared ones?

According to the spokesperson of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) in the conservative Gulf kingdom, women may soon be forced to don a full-face covering.

Spokesman of the Ha’eal district, Sheikh Motlab al-Nabet said the committee has the right to stop women whose eyes seem “tempting” and order her to cover them immediately.

Saudi women are already forced to wear a loose black dress and to cover their hair and in some areas, their face, while in public or face fines or sometimes worse, including public lashings.

In the report Professor Subhi described sitting in a coffee shop in an unnamed Arab state.

‘All the women were looking at me,’ he wrote. ‘One made a gesture that made it clear she was available… this is what happens when women are allowed to drive.’…

Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten


O sole god without equal !
You are alone, shining in your form of the living Aten.
Risen, radiant, distant and near.
                                                             Great Hymn, 47 & 73-74.

colossus of Amenhotep IV(Akhenaten) Gem-pa-Aten temple at East Karnak “the Aten is found” – Cairo Museum

The Great Hymn to the Aten is an ancient Egyptian hymn to the sun god Aten.

In the tomb of Ay, the chief minister of Akhenaten (and later to become king after Tutankhamun’s death, p. 136), occurs the longest and best rendition of a composition known as the ‘Hymn to the Aten’, said to have been written by Akhenaten himself. Quite moving in itself as a piece of poetry, its similarity to, and possible source of the concept in, Psalm 104 has long been noted.

Akhenaten was not a usual character. He was an intellectual and philosophical revolutionary who had the power and wealth to indulge his ideas. He tried to change the Egyptian people to a concept of godhead which was both monotheistic and abstract.

He worshiped the sun (Aten) as the one true god and it is possible that the Hebrew prophets’ concept of a universal God was copied in part from this cult. The hymn gives us a glimpse of the artistic renaissance characteristic of the Amarna period.

Hymn

The hymn suggests that Akhenaten considered Aten (the disk, orb, sphere, globe of the sun) as the only god, and creator of the universe, particularly in the verses translated as:

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!

They are hidden from the face (of man).

O sole god, like whom there is no other!

Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,

Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,

Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,

And what is on high, flying with its wings.

The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,

Thou settest every man in his place,

Thou suppliest their necessities:

Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.

Their tongues are separate in speech,

And their natures as well;

Their skins are distinguished,

As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.

Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,

Thou bringest forth as thou desirest

To maintain the people (of Egypt)

According as thou madest them for thyself,

The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,

The lord of every land, rising for them,

The Aton of the day, great of majesty.

Composed by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935);
Performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir;
Conducted by Paul Hillier;

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth


“Perhaps the legacy of Akhenaten, that changer of religion yet “Dweller in Truth” (with a capital “T”), lies in that all humans ought to search for the truth; it may be that then they will discover religion quite unexpectedly.”

Weakling or Warrior? An Analysis of Mahfouz’s Akhenaten

“You will never accuse me of meekness hereafter, Father, for I am swept by a sacred desire, strong as the northern winds, a desire to know the truth and record it, as you did in the prime of your youth,” declares Meriamun, the protagonist of Nobel Prize-winning Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth.

Meriamun is a man on a quest: he wishes to understand the mysterious circumstances of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s rule in the days of his father in the eleventh century, B.C.(2)  Akhenaten is known to Meriamun as “the heretic,” the crazed Pharaoh who brought destruction to his kingdom by declaring monotheism. To understand the life and rule of the infamous Akhenaten, Meriamun travels throughout Egypt with a letter of introduction from his father and interviews fourteen people closely associated with Akhenaten, including a high priest, relatives, friends, harem member, advisers, and the former queen herself, Nefertiti.

Reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’ format in his classic The Moonstone, the case to determine Pharaoh Akhenaten as sage or madman is intricate and even contradictory at times. Mahfouz helps readers negotiate the evidence through his treatment of religion, his integration of Egyptian cultural-historical norms, and his challenge against a modern tendency to believe every dilemma can be answered with a single value judgment.

Right Religion?

Religion is absolutely a major theme of Akhenaten. Meriamun’s interviews are often reduced to characterizations of Akhenaten as a pious martyr or as a weak madman unworthy of the throne.

Religion itself is treated respectfully, but the real (and intrinsic) question is whose religion is right? Though many criticize Akhenaten harshly for his failures as a Pharaoh, something any honor culture understands, Mahfouz also integrates terminology similar to that of modern Abrahamic religions. Ancient Egypt’s unusual monotheistic King Akhenaten, the “first priest of the One and Only God” (as Meri-Ra, a devout priest of Akhenaten’s God says) (106), is particularly ridiculed for his closure of the temples; Akhenaten declares, “The priests are swindlers” and the “temples are brothels, and there is nothing they hold sacred but their carnal desires” (107). The phrase “One and Only God” seems to have a high correlation with Egypt’s predominant religion—Islam—today, as it exemplifies the fundamental concept of Tawhid (the oneness of God) as based on the one hundred and twelfth Surah of the Quran, Surah al-Ikhlas: “He is Allah, [the] One”(Hilali and Khan). Deuteronomy 4:35 also confirms monotheism: “Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (ESV).

What is the secret behind this frail, repulsive and rather feminine nature of Akhenaten's depiction in Amarna art-style.

With his clear monotheistic motifs, Mahfouz creates an impasse. He is no longer speaking just of an obscure Pharaoh and a decision to change his country’s religion; he is raising the more universal question of the acceptability of religious compulsion. One can believe the accounts of so many people who paint Akhenaten as a “heretic” (11, 79, 131, 133) and who emphasize his “frail” constitution (133), his “repulsive appearance” (11), his “feminine nature” (11),and his “ugliness” (80). One can believe that Akhenaten was indeed a “mouse that fancied himself a lion” (80) (read: “a fool”); in this case, the minister of Akhenaten’s chamber, Nakht, is right in his sad lamentation, “This is a story of innocence, of deception, and infinite grief” (131).

But Nakht also believed Akhenaten a man “noble, truthful, and compassionate” (93). Like Akhenaten’s personal physician, Bento, he believed that the Pharaoh was more than met the eye . . . “no gentle spring breeze, but a winter storm” (137). Bento remembers Akhenaten’s last words to him before his passing: “They think my God and I are defeated. But he never betrays not does he accept defeat” (142). These are the last words of the book, and they reveal something about the way people treat religion today.

Meriamun’s quest for truth is an approach with which many can identify. Every man negotiates his idea of truth in one way or the other; if he does not “choose” his religion, he at least makes decisions informed by a worldview that he accepts. Before beginning his quest, Meriamun quotes Qaqimna when he says,“’Pass no judgment upon a matter until you have heard all testimonies’” (3).

It is interesting that Meriamun searches for truth, not religion. While in the end he is uncertain if he has found the truth, he has discovered more religion. The book ends with only two real conclusions—Meriamun is certain of his “growing fondness for the hymns of the One God, and [his] profound love for the beautiful Nefertiti” (172)1. Perhaps the legacy of Akhenaten, that changer of religion yet “Dweller in Truth” (with a capital “T”), lies in that all humans ought to search for the truth; it may be that then they will discover religion quite unexpectedly. Akhenaten may be soft, but perhaps this is precisely what distinguishes him from his ancestors. The Pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus account hardened his heart again and again, exchanging the truth of God’s miracles in exchange for the lies of his magicians (Exodus 7:222, Romans 1:253). For anyone who has found himself following tradition before truth, Meriamun and Akhenaten make striking, if difficult to judge, characters.

Cultural-Historical Context

Beyond common human experience, Akhenaten provides glimpses into a more specific cultural-historical context. Mafouz’s choice of setting seems calculated; it is at once identifiable with the Egyptian people, yet so far removed from daily experience that it provides the same veiled pith of a critical joke. Someone familiar with Cairenes might recognize archetypal characteristics of an honor culture. Indeed, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s choices seem criticized the most because they are shameful to his people. For instance, the high priest ruefully recalls the young Pharaoh: “He was rather dark, with dreamy eyes and a thin, frail figure, noticeably feminine. His features were grotesque and disturbing. He was a despicable creature, unworthy of the throne, so weak he could not challenge an insect, let alone the Master Deity. I was disgusted but said nothing” (18).

Egypt is a visual culture, and appearances, particularly in public, are emphasized. There are certain conventions people must follow, even if it is as simple as the statuary domestic cup of tea. No wonder Mubarak remains ever-young, or that people keep silent until the time that they can call out dishonor without endangering their own reputations. It happens with shopkeepers. It happens with government. And it happens with Akhenaten.

The beauty of literature, and particularly Mafouz’s novel, is that people and ideas have some universal qualities. The only ambiguity for the casual reader might be the events themselves, as they are rooted in the politics of the period. Nevertheless, Mafouz makes his book highly accessible and imprints it with a particularly Egyptian ethos. The point hardly seems to be the events themselves, since they are often told out of sequence and from many different perspectives; more important is the search for truth and the characters who believe they know it. The players only become more difficult to judge, however, when they are more than figures on a search for truth—they are reflections in a modern mirror.

Values and Moral Dilemma

Queen Nefertiti, beauty and brilliance combined.

The universal qualities of religion and culture in Akhenaten also extend to values. Although cultural values can be relative (precisely because they are uniquely cultural), value judgments made by individuals in the novel are similar to the values many hold today. For instance, every interviewee volunteers his own (often differing) opinion of Akhenaten. As Ay, the sage and former counselor of Akhenaten says, “[Life] is a sky laden with clouds of contradictions” (27). Meriamun’s search reveals shared value systems—systems that value strength, religion, and loyalty.

Some condemn Akhenaten as weak; others recognize a quiet strength. Some see Akhenaten’s move to monotheism as religious suicide; others see it as the beautiful and right religion. Some see Akhenaten a betrayer of the people’s trust, an Oedipal adulterer, and his wife Nefertiti conniving, unloving, and disloyal (99); others see Akhenaten as a friend despite differences, a steadfast husband who neglected his entire harem (72) for Nefertiti, “beauty and brilliance combined,” who believes in his cause and does everything she can to stand by her husband (124). Throughout these conflicts, Mahfouz weaves his tale such that readers can empathize with any one of the characters because their actions may be dictated by experiences to which readers would respond no differently. The plot, as the cliché goes, thickens.

If Akhenaten lived so basely, then those who stuck by him because it was their duty are laudable for their sacrifice in service of the system; those who abandoned him entirely did what they thought was best for the kingdom.

For instance, the most captivating woman of Akhenaten’s inherited harem, Tadukhipa, is revolted by his weakness and decision to neglect the concubines, for harem women lived “an unbearable and utterly degrading life that bred further perversity,” and “when it became known that the idiot king wanted to fight sin with love instead of punishment” the women turned to each other and to the palace guards (74).

So who is right, the man Akhenaten who says he knows who God is, or the gregarious, hardened woman Tadukhipa, disgusted with the moral decline resulting from the Pharaoh’s rule? Few chose the former, and those who did live in the shadows of others’ doubt for the remainder of their lives.

The enigmatic Nefertiti says that she left her husband’s side only when she thought it would save his life; she thought that if she left, “he might falter and take the advice of his men” (170). Akhenaten did not falter. Those who followed Akhenaten to the end seemed to believe in conscience, they believed in God before and despite of His weak messenger (142). The people of Akhenaten could be anyone, for while history changes, moral dilemmas do not.

Conclusion

Most famous stone relief depicting the royal family of Akhenaten,Nefertiti and their three little daughters in a radically new and realistic trend.

Meriamun’s interview with the high priest ends with a long silence. Finally, the priest concludes, “We are still healing. We need time and serious effort. Our loss, inside and outside the empire was beyond estimate. [. . .] That is the true story. Record it faithfully. Do carry my sincere greetings to your dear father (25). Mahfouz imitates life when he does not give readers all the answers; he simply provides the records necessary for the gnawing discomfort of uncertainty.

Sure, arguments can be made to favor the dichotomy. Akhenaten was a weakling because he said thus! Akhenaten was a warrior because he did thus! But then, too, maybe he was both weakling and warrior. Or neither at all. As Iranian author Azar Nafisi notes in Reading Lolita in Tehran, “A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil” (131). Through Mahfouz’s craft, suddenly Akhenaten has little to do with the dilemma at all, for the conflict lies in the hearts of the people interviewed and splashed undecidedly in the minds of the readers.

Thanks to Shadows & Dust website

Arab Spring Blossoms For Islamists


“I certainly don’t appreciate it when the price one has to pay for freely expressing his opinion in a so-called conservative Muslim society would simply be his life.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

 

Tunisian revolution

No, I don’t think I’m surprised, may be dismayed or worried but absolutely not surprised by the rise of hard-line Islamists in the wake of the falling dominos’ syndrome in the Arab countries, or what is better known as the Arab spring.

Revolution is a wonderful and intriguing word, what is wonderful about it, is the illusionary heralding of a new dawn with a whole set of principles by which all men everywhere can declare their own freedom. But that is something easier said than done.

It is one thing to dream about revolution but it’s a totally different situation to wake up one day to find yourself living through one.

Revolution is not about toppling the dictator and handing the power over to some gallant revolutionaries who believe in liberty, justice and common good, rather it is a transient phase of anarchy during which the culture and principles of a rising power will rule.

And in the case of the Arab Muslim countries, where the investment in human capitol-proper education, training and employment- has been almost non-existent the mob culture will most likely to rule in the aftermath.

Nothing happens overnight, what we are witnessing now of the rise of hard-line Islamists is the result of years and decades of rampant corruption that abolished the emergence of a second line of political cadres and leadership, crippled the development of a free civil society, hindered creativity and favored indoctrination over critical thinking and that stifled all sorts of dissent and in doing so allowed the teachings of the mosque to dominate and thrive.

Most Muslims- specially the fundamentalists- share the supremacist conviction that Islam is not just a religion but also a manifesto for a state and a way of life as it is the last and perfect message delivered to mankind from heaven. In other words, that simply means no one can possibly argue differently from the Quran Holy Scriptures or deviate from the teachings and instructions of the prophet Mohamed as compiled in his sacred legacy of quotes or what is known in Arabic as “Hadith”.

The mosque/state relation is one of Islam’s prominent features and chronic dilemmas at the same time. And while Christianity managed to separate the church from the state Islam still awaits its reform movement.

The scripture leaves not much room for innovation or multiplicity and while that could be appreciated in terms of the religious teachings it is glaringly incompatible with the modern man ever-changing worldly affairs.

I can understand the Islamic scripture stipulating that Muslims should pray five times per day (one of which is at dawn break) but I can’t understand it outlawing the right of free expression and I certainly don’t appreciate it when the price one has to pay for freely expressing his opinion in a so-called conservative Muslim society would simply be his life.

Tunisia police teargas protest at ‘blasphemous’ Film

AFP – Fri, Oct 14, 2011

Some of the Tunisian Islamists who attacked the offices of a television channel that had shown the award-winning film Persepolis

Tunisian extremists fire-bombed the home of a TV station chief Friday, hours after militants protesting its broadcast of a film they say violated Islamic values clashed with police in the streets of Tunis.

About a hundred men, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails, lay siege to the home of Nessma private television chief Nabil Karoui late Friday, the station reported in its evening news bulletin.

Karoui’s family had only just escaped, the news presenter said as Nessma denounced the attack.

Sofiane Ben Hmida, one of Nessma’s star reporters, told AFP the station chief was not at home when the attack on his house took place around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT). But his wife and children were.

About 20 of the protesters were able to get inside.

“The family managed to get out the back and are safe. The attackers wrecked the house and set it on fire,” he added.

A neighbour, who had alerted police, said the aggressors arrived in taxis, armed with knives and Molotov cocktails.

According to a Nessma source “only a housemaid was present inside. She was attacked and hospitalised.”

Karoui himself said by telephone that he was shocked and devastated by the attack.

“I fear for my family. I am scared they (the attackers) will come back,” he said.

Interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb said around a hundred people turned up outside the house, forced their way inside, broken the windows and torn out two gas pipes. Five people were arrested, he added.

Late Friday, 50 police officers were deployed at Karoui’s house, along with Nessma security staff.

This was the most serious incident yet in an escalating series of protests against the station’s broadcast of “Persepolis” on October 7.

The globally acclaimed animated film on Iran’s 1979 revolution offended many Muslims because it depicts an image of God as an old, bearded man. All depictions of God are forbidden by Islam.

 

Persepolis” is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution, a story that bears an obviously similar parallel to the undergoing revolutions ripping through the Arabic countries and a one that is definitely worth watching.

The film won the jury prize at Cannes film festival 2007 and was nominated for the academy award for the best animation feature in the following year but was denounced and deemed blasphemous on his first screening in an Arabic country during the aftermath of the Arab spring currently beening hijacked by hard-line Islamists.

The man who authorized its screening in Tunisia almost got killed by a mob of angry Islamists who never saw the film in the first place but acted promptly and savagely according to a fatwa as worshippers poured out of al-Fatah mosque in downtown Tunis in the Friday afternoon and began protesting after the imam preached against “Persepolis,” calling it a “serious attack on the religious beliefs of Muslims.”

Even if they had watched it, they would never have discerned the profound message conveyed in this beautiful film, for those who grew up with such dangerous indoctrination- a theme the film draws upon- and who are not able to differentiate the literal from the figurative language; this compelling animation would prove to be too intricate for their dogmatic minds to decipher.

Richard Dawkins’ New Children’s Book


Written by Raven Clabough/ New American  

Atheist Richard Dawkins has written a children’s book, entitled The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, which encourages the notions of atheism and evolution and describes Judeo-Christian beliefs as a myth. According to Dawkins, the work is intended for families to read together and “enjoy [his] take on the universe’s truths.”

Dawkins explains something of what motivated him to write the book:

I’ve had perfectly wonderful conversations with Anglican bishops, and I rather suspect if you asked in a candid moment, they’d say they don’t believe in the virgin birth. But for every one of them, four others would tell a child she’ll rot in hell for doubting.

NewScientist’s Andy Coghlan has this to say about the new book:

Dawkins has repackaged his passion for atheism — and for the capacity of science to deliver demonstrable truths about nature — in a book designed to appeal to teenagers.

The writing is also masterly, if a little waffly in places. From the strident polemics of The God Delusion, Dawkins has shifted into “wise grandad” mode. His strategy is laid bare in the list of chapters, a clear “scientific” rewrite of the contents of Genesis. The formula is simple: each chapter addresses a basic question: “Who was the first person?“ or ”When and how did everything begin?” Dawkins then supplies imaginative answers provided by ancient myths from around the world — among them prominent tales from the Bible. Finally, he demolishes these myths by supplying the “real” answers provided by science.

Dawkins worked with comic book artist Dave McKean to create a “graphic detective story” which asks and answers questions pondered by nearly everyone during the course of their lives. He believes his book will raise basic questions among children, helping them better understand the world around them by encouraging what he considers science instead of religious doctrine.

Still, Dawkins contends his book cannot be considered indoctrination. “I am almost pathologically afraid of indoctrinating children,” he claims. “It would be a ‘Think for Yourself Academy.’ ”

However, The Magic of Reality seems to reveal at least some attempts at indoctrination. According to Dawkins, children will have an easier time accepting evolution as a scientific truth because they are not “weighed down by misleading familiarity.” He adds:

When children ask “where did I come from” they are quite capable of understanding — and being taught evolution. Evolution could be taught in such a way as to make it easier to understand than a myth. That is because myths leave the child’s questions unanswered, or they raise more questions than they appear to answer. Evolution is a truly satisfying and complete explanation of existence, and I suspect that this thing is something a child can appreciate from an early age.

Regardless of how satisfying evolution may be for some, evangelist and geneticist Francis Collins asserts that the question of “What happened before that?” continues to plague scientific theories. The only way to answer those questions, asserts Collins, is through the recognition of a First Cause — a Creator: “A creator who is not limited by time, doesn’t need to have such a beginning,” notes Collins. “[Dawkins'] question doesn’t make any sense if you have a creator outside of time.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pyramidion’s editorial policy.

Ground Zero Mosque Opens Without Much Controversy


 

park51 Islamic community center

New York – The Islamic Community Center located blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, and commonly referred to as the ground zero mosque, has officially opened, celebrating the day with an art exhibit that features children representing 171 ethnicities.

The ‘NYChildren Photography Exhibition’ brought visitors instead of protesters to the opening at the controversial Park51 Community Center location.

Organizers said they hoped the exhibit would inspire diversity in the community and would be a catalyst to encourage New York residents “to meet and get to know their neighbors to build trust and friendship.”

The ‘Ground Zero’ mosque ignited a political firestorm when construction began last year. Blogger’s were divided on how to describe the project. Was it a mosque or a community center, and is it located ‘at ground zero’ or near it, on Park Avenue, over two blocks away.

The project drew harsh criticism from opponents who said they didn’t want a mosque anywhere near the site of the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of thousands of victims. Protesters lined the street in front of Park51 each day for weeks, verbally attacking Islam, Muslims and anyone that appeared to be of the Muslim faith. Islamaphobia was rampant at the loosely organized events that pitted supporters against opponents of the center.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg entered the heated debate on the ‘ground zero mosque’ by coming out in support of the Islamic Community Center, and said the city would not interfere with the construction of the controversial project.

President Barack Obama defended the Islamic Community Center at a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan saying, “I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground. But this is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”

Eventually the protests and the media storm died down and the officially opening came off without a hitch.

Developer Sharif El-Gamal told The Associated Press, “We made incredible mistakes. The biggest mistake we made was not to include 9/11 families. We didn’t understand that we had a responsibility to discuss our private project with family members that lost loved ones.” El-Gamal said they “never really connected with community leaders and activists.”

Today the vision of the completed project has changed, according to El-Gamal. He said, “the center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial. It’s an Islamic community center serving all of New York, and based on pluralism and diversity. Any opposition to the center today would be part of a ‘campaign against Muslims.'”

Special thanks to Digital Journal

Glenn Beck Will Shed Real Tears Next Time He Visits Israel


“It is hard to imagine that the story of the Zionist land grab of Palestine could go down in history as the redemption of the world Jews and a courageous act that need to be restored by a hypocritical Zionist mouthpiece like Glenn Beck.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

“– We should go east into Transjordan. That will be a test to our movement.

- Nonsense, isn’t there enough land in Judea and Galilee?

– The land in Judea and Galilee is populated by the Arabs

– Well, we’ll take it from them; we’ll harass them until they get out, let them go to Transjordan. As soon as we have a big settlement here, we’ll seize the land, we’ll become strong, we’ll expel them from there too … let them go back to the Arab countries.”

Despite the ethnic cleansing and the wall, the Palestinian land speaks Arabic

… That was part of a dialogue between two pro-Zionism advocates in 1891 and the intro of the famous documentary The land speaks Arabicin which Dr. Nur Masalha, a Palestinian professor of politics and history reveals through his ‘Post-Zionism’ and ‘new history’ argumentation the hard to disguise anymore neo-colonialist ideas on which the Jewish state of Israel was established, namely the ‘transfer’ and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

This highly criminal plan of transferring an entire indigenous population did in fact require, besides the international political duplicity, a parallel substance of brazen imprudence and methodical terrorism carried out by the then terrorist Zionist guerrillas , the Stern Gang, Haganah and the Irgun group, the infamous right-wing Zionist militants responsible for the King David hotel bombing operation and commissioned under Jabotinsky’s teaching to deter the Palestinians and disrupt the genuine fabric of the Arabic society in Palestine in the 1930s through mass murder and terrorism.

It is hard to imagine that the story of the Zionist land grab of Palestine could go down in history as the redemption of the world Jews and a courageous act that need to be restored by a hypocritical Zionist mouthpiece like Glenn Beck.

Beck in Jerusalem without tears nor cheers.  

“My Israeli friends, I have a message: You must not lose hope. You must not lose confidence. You must have courage.

And you must draw courage from the knowledge that you were led to this land by God. And in the affairs of mankind, God is not a stranger to the children of Abraham.

He promised that Israel would rise again. For two thousand years the Jewish people held on to this promise. We have seen the promise fulfilled.

Israel, we have witnessed the dawn of your redemption.

We live in an age of manmade, technological miracles. But these are the days of divine miracles.

Not by the hand of any man, whether his name is Balfour or Truman, does Israel exist. Israel is here because the God of Abraham keeps His covenants.

In the 40 years of wandering in the desert, the ancient Hebrews were led through the dark of night by a pillar of fire.

Courage is the act of walking into the darkness, and knowing that each step would be guided and protected by the pillar of fire, if we follow it. God is with us.

I will admit, I did not know this, until very recently.”

… Thus Said Glenn beck in his latest speech delivered in Jerusalem in what was expected to be a mass rally dubbed “restoring courage“, or rather restoring the bits and pieces left of his right wing fundamentalism and media mania after he was kicked out of Fox.

Isareli leftists protesting Glenn Beck' Jerusalem rally

I believe Mr. Beck when he said he didn’t know this until recently, but I also believe that he has neither a right nor a proxy to assume a prophet’s intonation and speak on behalf of God and describe the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land as yet another divine miracle.

This Israeli military takeover of the Arabic land with the premeditated plan for the transfer of its whole indigenous population could not and should not be cloaked in the shrouds of piety as Beck’s recent and flimsy knowledge of the Israelite story clearly shows.

Beck is as clueless about the true meaning of the story of the chosen people as many of the Hebrew Bible followers who listened many times to, but never contemplated, the historically refuted story of the exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt after alleged tale of years of enslavement and torture, wandering in the wilderness for 40 long years and then getting the divine clearance/visa to enter a land historically known as Canaan, but from the Hebrew Bible’s perspective called the land of milk and honey or better yet the promised land.

Canaanite Nakba

During that ancient time and as the Israelites were about to invade Canaan they were led by Joshua, a biblical figure said to be Moses’ assistant for he was most gifted as a spy, so he sort of did the job of Mossad for the Israelites in the famous story in that remote era in history.

The Israelites reached Canaan but to their astonishment, though no one of them seemed astounded since they had Yahweh on their side to do all the thinking, the Promised Land was not empty; it was not some deserted terrains with a big sign at its gate saying “welcome my dear and chosen children to the promised land, please take a number and wait in line”

The whole of Canaan, with Jericho included was inhabited with people who had their own culture, religion and language, in other words, the Promised Land was a land of milk and honey alright, along too many other resources, but only with a tiny and rather inconvenient obstacle, it was unfortunately populated with indigenous people who not only ever attacked or provoked the Israelites but also never heard of them before.

According to the story, Joshua was commanded by his god upon the crumbling of the walls of Jericho, that mysteriously collapsed like the 911 towers, to kill every man, woman, child and farm animal in Canaan. And that he did with the rest of the so called chosen people and children of god without a blink of shame, Hesitation or remorse.

Socio-politically speaking, the massacre of the Canaanites is described as blatant and unabashed act of genocide, but biblically speaking, it is reverently referred to as a divine land grant regardless of all the killing of innocent men, women, children, animals and even babies still inside their mother’s wombs.

Couldn’t we learn anything from history?

July 14.1948 edition of the "Jerusalem Post" only it was then titled "The Palestine Post"

Now if we jumped ahead thousands of years we will be astounded by the similarity of the same crimes of genocide committed in Palestine by the Israelis and their modern spy agents of Mossad.

But the more astonishing is the fact that after thousands of years of dauntless efforts to reach the realm of separating facts from myths and after painful sacrifices to reach new grounds of shared values of respected freedoms and human rights the world conscience is still quite at ease with the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, if not indifferent to the whole crime, to say the least.

Another Bin Laden but in a smart suit

Back to Mr. Beck’s bold speech as he went on and said

“Everything we know about human rights and civilization came from this place. Whether you live by 613 commandments or 10 or just one golden rule, they all came from here, this throne of the Lord.

When the world turns its back on Israel and the Jewish people, the world turns its back on the source of all human rights. Without the Jewish people, humanity would not know that every individual life has dignity and that every life is sacred”

Mr. Beck’s ignorance, knowing not that the human conscience dawned from ancient Egypt rather from the teachings of some pastoral nomads, and his brazen hypocrisy surprised me not, for he was just being himself.

Glenn Beck

But the weird thing is that nobody caught him in tears as he was ass-kissing the few bunch of Israelis who showed up for his pathetic performance.

Glenn Beck is virtually no different from other religious extremists like Osama bin laden or rabbi Ovadia Yosef except for the chic suit he wears and the celebrities of the like-minded as Jon Voight who regularly attended his campaigns of restoring fear and reconstructing the foolish milieu of the ages of medieval fanatics who accept no creed other than their own as a legitimate path to God, and who seem intent on hastening the arrival of their version of Armageddon.

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 a few days away and with the majority of honest scientists, experts and intellectuals attesting to the fact that the collapse of the world trade towers is a false flag operation done by a covert agency that managed to pull out the biggest demolition scam ever in history, next to of course the mythical collapse of the walls of Jericho, how could America prevail over militant Islamism whom was scapegoated for 9/11, with such a backward religious thinking promoted by fanatics like Glenn beck and John Hagee.

The next time Mr. Beck will visit Israel, which I reckon will be soon after the UN will have rejected the Palestinian bid for statehood, thanks to the United states’ only good for Israel brokering peace efforts and timely vetoes, his eyes will be sore and wet all day, not from the poignant ambience of being in the company of the chosen children of god, but from the highly irritant smoke emitted from tear gas canisters and grenades the Israeli settlers in the west bank will be firing this September on the angry and stateless Palestinian protesters or in other words, the few thousands left of the descendants of the ancient Canaanites.

Exposé on Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion


Vanguard

By Douglas Anele

Richard Dawkins

Dawkins admits, for example, that Jesus’ doctrine of “turning the other cheek was” way ahead of his time, and anticipated Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. Yet the family values Jesus exhibited sometimes were not worthy of emulation: his brusqueness to his mother and prescription that his disciples must abandon their families and everything else and follow him are exemplary in this regard (p. 284).

The author highlights and correctly criticised absurdities in the doctrine of original sin, and described the Christian notion of atonement as “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent” (p. 287). Dawkins reiterates the point, often deliberately ignored by Christian apologists, that much of the moral consideration for others advocated in The Holy Bible was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined group. He acknowledges that there is some improvement in moral values globally, but attributes it not to a single factor such as religion but to the complex interplay of disparate forces.

Chapter 7 ended with the observation that religion has motivated so many brutal wars, whereas atheism, or absence of belief, hasn’t, because a more plausible motive for waging war “is unshakeable faith that one’s own religion is the only true one, reinforced by a holy book that explicitly condemns all heretics and followers of rival religions to death, and explicitly promises that the soldiers of God will go straight to a martyrs’ heaven” (p. 316).

Chapter 8 has the interesting title “What’s wrong with religion? Why be so hostile?” In it, Dawkins defends his anti-religious atheistic stance. He distinguishes between fundamentalism and passion. A genuine fundamentalist believes a proposition not on the basis of evidence but because the proposition in question is contained in a purported holy book. Dawkins attributes his passionate defence of evolution to the fact that religious fundamentalists are missing the impressive, awesome, evidence in favour of the theory because of blind adherence to antiquated ancient literature.

Moreover, anyone who accepts a proposition on the basis of scientific evidence knows what it would take to make him change his mind, and would readily do so if the necessary evidence were forthcoming. But a genuine believer can never do that. Hard core fundamentalist religion is antithetical to scientific education of the youth, by teaching children right from the beginning that unquestioning faith is a virtue (p. 323). On the dark side of religious absolutism, Dawkins points out that in Muslim countries conversion to another religion or making statements which religious authorities consider “blasphemous” is punishable by death. He cites the case of Sadiq Abdul Karim Malallah who, in September 3, 1992, was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia “after being lawfully convicted of apostasy and blasphemy” (p. 325).

Dawkins also acknowledges the existence of fundamentalist “Taliban mentality” in Christian countries, particularly the United States. He also refers to the fallacious arguments religious bigots marshal against homosexuality and abortion. One of such bad reasoning is the anti-abortionist argument (or Great Beethoven Fallacy) that abortion is wrong because it deprives a baby of the opportunity of a full human life in the future (p. 337).

According to Dawkins, Peter and Jean Medawar have blown the argument out of the water by arguing that, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means that we deprive a human soul of the gift of existence anytime we fail to seize an opportunity for sexual intercourse (p. 339). Dawkins condemned the so-called “moderates” in religion, on the ground that they see nothing wrong in teaching children the dangerous notion that believing certain propositions without question or justification but based solely on faith is good. He maintains, and I agree completely, that inculcating in children unquestioned faith primes them to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads, crusades and suicide bombers.

Having argued trenchantly in chapter 8 that indoctrination and brainwashing of children with dogmatic religious doctrines is a grievous wrong, Dawkins followed it up in chapter 9 with a dissection of religion-motivated child abuse and how the dangers associated with faith can be avoided. He tells the sad story of how, in 1858, a six-year old child of Jewish parents living in Bologna, Italy, named Edgardo Mortara was legally abducted by the papal police in accordance with orders from the Inquisition. The little boy was brutally taken away from his weeping mother and distraught father to the Catechumens in Rome and reared as a Catholic. Apart from occasional brief visits under close watch by priests he was never seen again by his parents (p. 349).

Dawkins highlights the physical and mental abuses children are subjected to in the name of religion, and decries the nonchalant attitude towards, and ignoble defence, by the clergy and some highly-placed individuals of those who committed atrocities against children in the name or religion (pp. 350-379). He criticises the hypocrisy of accommodating extremist religious absurdities and deadly practices such as human sacrifices in the name of “cultural and religious diversity”; he laments the wastage of human and material resources for religious purposes.

Dawkins highlights the dangers inherent in deliberately twisting ideas culled from science to suit preconceived religious beliefs. However, although he was highly critical of the complacency and mis-education of children in scientific knowledge by faith-based educational institutions, he acknowledges the educational benefits of studying comparative religion as a part of literary culture. On pp. 383-385, he lists some useful and handy phrases, idioms and clichés from the King James Authorised Version of The Holy Bible.

Surely, he says, “ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature.” Thus, he concludes that an atheistic world-view does not justify abolition of The Holy Bible and other sacred books from the educational system. According to Dawkins, “we can retain a sentimental loyalty to the cultural and literary traditions of, say, Judaism, Anglicanism or Islam, and even participate in religious rituals such as marriages and funerals, without buying into the supernatural beliefs that historically went along with those traditions. We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage” (p. 387).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pyramidion’s editorial policy.

Women under Sharia Law – The Dilemma of “Wife Beating Protocol”


By alfadi

" Aicha" Arabian Woman. A painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman 1883

The Quran is the source of all personal status laws in Islamic countries. Therefore, the rules of religious jurisprudence concerning the position and treatment of women are also based on the Quran. In order to fully understand the position of women in Islam, one must first examine the Quranic rules concerning them. Our dilemma in today’s article has to do with the Quranic command for husbands to beat their wives.

A. Man’s Supreme Authority

The Quran gives a man complete authority in marriage: “Men stand superior to women…” (Q 4.34). The Quran justifies giving this authority to the man for the following reasons:

First, preference is given to him by the nature of his physical ability: “God hath preferred some of them over others…” (Q 4.34).

Second, preference is given to him by reason of his financial ability: “and in that they expend of their wealth…” (Q 4.34).

Apparently this higher position of man does not change even if “a woman has enough money to support herself without needing him to spend money on her, or even if she has so much money that she can spend it on him.”15 This preference is because a man has authority over a woman according to the Quran, the ultimate source of Sharia Law, regardless of his or her economic situation.

The leading authorities of Islam state that this ruling of the Quran is an everlasting one as reported by al-Aqqad:

It precedes the development of civilizations and general legislations and remains past them.”

B. Wife’s Relationship to Husband

In Islam, the wife is a slave to her husband. The Islamic traditions stress that a woman should obey her husband’s commands. The story is told of a man who ordered his wife not to leave the house while he was traveling. During his absence, her father became ill, so she sent to the prophet of Islam asking for permission to go to her father. The response she received was: “Obey your husband.” Her father died, so she then requested permission to go see her father’s body before burial. Again the response was: “Obey your husband.”  When her father was buried, the prophet sent her a message saying, “Allah [god] has forgiven her father because of her obedience to her husband.” In other words, once married, the woman’s complete emotional and intellectual abilities belong to her husband.

In addition to absolute obedience, a woman should revere her husband because Islam teaches that, “If a woman knew the right of a husband, she would not sit at his lunch and supper time until he finishes.” One time, a woman came to the prophet of Islam to ask about her obligations to her husband. He said, “If he had pus from his hair part to his foot [from head to toe] and you licked him, you would not have shown him enough gratitude.”

Obedience and reverence towards her husband are two of the wife’s duties. These duties form an element of worship for her. As the prophet of Islam once said, “If a woman prays her five prayers, fasts the month of fasting, keeps her chastity, and obeys her husband, she will enter the paradise of her Lord.” In addition, Allah will not accept the prayer of a woman if her husband is angry with her.

C. Husband’s Right to Punish His Wife

The Quran gives the husband the right to punish his wife if she goes outside the parameters that he draws for her. It provides men with instructions: “But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bed-chambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them...” (Q 4.34).

In fact, in reading the verse above one will notice that these instructions were given to the husband concerning a wife whom he ONLY fears disloyalty, not a wife that actually committed a disloyal act. These instructions include the following step-by-step process:

1. Instructing

At the beginning of marriage, a husband reminds his wife about the rights that are given to him by Sharia Law. He can say to her, “Fear Allah! I have rights due to me from you. Repent from what you are doing. Know that obedience to me is one of your obligations.” If the wife refuses to fulfill the sexual desires of her husband, then he should remind her of his rights over her body.

2. Sexual Abandonment

The Arabic word used in the verse to describe abandonment (hajr) on the part of the husband can carry multiple meanings:

• Desertion

If a wife remains “disobedient,” her husband should ignore her. This means he abstains from sexual intercourse with her as part of this phase of punishment.

• Forced Sexual Intercourse (“tightening the bindings”)

While the word hajr is interpreted to mean “to refuse to share their beds,” the word hajr has several meanings. One of these meanings indicates the hajr of the camel when the owner binds the animal with a hijar, or rope. This disturbing interpretation means that the term used in Q 4.34 (“refuse to share their beds”) can actually mean to bind the wife and force her to have sexual intercourse.

This meaning is the adopted view of al-Tabari, a renowned classical Islamic commentator. Other scholars, who also support this interpretation, state “it means to tie them up and force them to have [sexual] intercourse.”

The Quranic principle of a man’s right to a woman’s body is not open for discussion. Regardless of her psychological or physical state, she has to obey the man’s command to lie in bed and have sexual relations with him. After all, the prophet of Islam repeatedly made statements advocating this view:

If a man calls his woman to his bed, and she does not come, and then he goes to bed angry at her, the angels will curse her until the morning.”

3. Beating

If the previous methods, including instruction and verbal abuse, fail to correct a wife’s behavior, then a husband is given the right to beat his wife. Even though verse Q 4.34 does not specify the mode or limit of the beating, it is believed that the prophet of Islam put a condition on the beating, classifying it as “not excessive.” As a result, when interpreting the phrase “not excessive beating,” scholars offer the following guidelines:

• Avoid hitting the wife’s face.

• Do not break any of the wife’s bones.

• Use nonfatal implements or physical force:

° Such as the use of al-siwak (a twig of the Salvadora persica tree), or shoe laces, etc.

° and the use of hand, etc. [hitting, slapping, punching the neck and chest, etc.]

The wife may receive a beating for every behavior that incites the anger of her husband or for every act that her husband does not like. Current Islamic literature supports the legitimacy of beating and its benefit for “upbringing.”

For example, the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Mitwalli al-Sha‘rawi (AD 1911-1998), who was considered among the top Muslim thinkers in the twentieth century, records his position:

Beating is not a sign of hatred. It could be a sign of love. As long as it is not excessive, it would only cause a small amount of pain. A person might resort to lightly beating the loved one due to desiring what is in the person’s [best] interests and due to caring about the person. A woman, by her very nature, understands that, coming from her husband. She knows that his anger at her and his punishing her…will soon pass away and with its passing, its causes will pass. Therefore, they remain in their relationship as if nothing happened.

Conclusion

Ironically, Islamic literature claims that Islam as a religion has improved the position of women and is the only religious doctrine that honors women. History shows that Islam did accomplish some limited advancement in the position of women during the seventh century in certain aspects such as, limiting the number of wives to four in comparison to the practices during that era in the Arabian Peninsula. Conversely, many of the changes implemented by Islam were not positive. The Quran permits men to beat their wives, making domestic abuse a divinely permissible act rather than just an individual behavior.

It is worthy to note that in various ancient societies and throughout human history, women have lived under the oppression of social injustice. However, our dilemma, when it comes to the position of women in Islam, stems from the fact that Islam is seen as the final religion and source of law by its followers. Hence, the position of women is fixed, and rulings, such as the beating of a wife, must remain in place as specified by the Quran. Though in modern society a woman may work and share in the financial burdens of life, she will still be deprived of equality because the Quran commands it so. Overall, the Quranic rules regarding the treatment of women can still be used today as tools of oppression in the hand of the Muslim man. Any effort she exerts other than that is of no value.”

About the author: Al Fadi is a former Wahhabi Muslim, originally from Saudi Arabia. He is a co-author and editor of the scholarly book entitled The Qu’ran Dilemma

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Pyramidion’s editorial policy

Centuries of Lying in the Name of Christianity


A Review of Forged by Bart D. Ehrman

By Walter C. Uhler

“The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed”

– Thomas Paine

Professor Bart Ehrman has done something that more than 99 percent of American Christians have failed to do. He has devoted much of his adult life to a serious study of the New Testament.

Ehrman commenced his studies at a fundamentalist Bible college, Moody Bible Institute, before completing his undergraduate education at Wheaton College. While at Wheaton, Ehrman did what every serious student of the New Testament must do; he studied Greek. As he explained in Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, “I took Greek, so that I could read the New Testament in its original language.” [p. 4]

After graduating from Wheaton, Ehrman went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under one of the world’s great experts on the Greek New Testament, the late Bruce Metzger. Among Metzger’s many scholarly contributions is his indispensible book, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, which identifies the three classes of sources available for ascertaining the text of the New Testament: Greek manuscripts, ancient translations into other languages and quotations from the New Testament made by early ecclesiastical writers, such as Augustine, Eusebius, Tertullian and Marcion. [p. 36-89]

Readers of that book would learn, for example, that the oldest known portion of a New Testament is a few verses from John that were written during the first half of the second century — or approximately a full century after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Readers also would learn that the two oldest surviving complete New Testaments are the codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus. Sinaiticus is a fourth-century Greek Bible discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century that not only contains the complete New Testament, but also The Shepard of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas, books that were considered to be part of the New Testament for several centuries. Vaticanus also is a fourth-century Greek Bible that has been housed in the Vatican Library at least since 1475.

Because approximately 5,000 Greek manuscripts containing all or part of the New Testament have been identified, textual criticism became a necessity. As Professor Metzger put it, “The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another.”

(These are facts to keep in mind whenever some biblical literalist, presumably incapable of reading Greek, tells you that the New Testament is inerrant.)

Having studied under Metzger and reading all he could, Ehrman not only abandoned his early belief that the Bible was inerrant, he also was compelled to conclude: “the Bible not only contains untruths or accidental mistakes. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies.” [p. 5] As he asserts in Forged, “Throughout this book it will become quite clear from the ancient writings themselves that even though forgery was widely practiced, it was also widely condemned and treated as a form of lying.” [p. 36].

Given that 84 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be a holy book, one would think that such people would be concerned to learn that many of the New Testament books are forgeries. Yet, whenever I have brought New Testament forgeries, mistakes or contradictions to the attention of a Bible-believing Christian, he or she invariably falls back to the excuse: “Well, it’s simply a matter of faith, isn’t it?”

Upon hearing this excuse, I always respond: “No, if it were simply a matter of faith, I could assert that my cell phone is my savior, and so could you. You obviously believe that your faith in Jesus Christ is superior to my faith in my cell phone because it is based on nearly two-thousand years of tradition that was legitimized by the stories told in the New Testament.” Protestants are even more focused on that book, because — ever since Martin Luther – they’ve been told, Sola scriptura, (by scripture alone).

What’s worse is the sad fact that few Christians even comprehend the disturbing paradox: Had Jesus returned as quickly as he predicted, nobody would need a New Testament.

Remember the biblical passages that suggest Jesus’ imminent return? “Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come to power.” (Mark 9:1)

Or, how about Paul’s expectation that he and some of the Thessalonians will be alive when the apocalypse occurs. Remember how he contrasts “those who have died” with “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord?” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17) [The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, p.314]

Obviously, either Jesus or Mark got it wrong — and so did Paul. According to Professor Ehrman, Paul “appears to have no idea that his words would be discussed after his death, let alone read and studied some nineteen centuries later.” [Ibid]

Nevertheless, “as hopes of Christ’s imminent return began to fade in the later first century,” Christians began to realize that they must create structures which might last at least for a generation or more amid a world of non-believers. [Diarmaid MacCullough, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, p. 118]

Structures? Yes, Christians attempted to create a universal faith based upon: (1) an agreed list of authoritative sacred texts, (2) the formation of creeds and (3) the establishment of an authoritative ministry (bishop, priest and deacon) [Ibid, p. 127-137]

Thus, as Ehrman notes, “Christians from the very beginning needed to appeal to authorities for what they believed.” [Forged, p.7] “The ultimate authority was God, of course. But the majority of Christians came to think that God did not speak the truth about what to believe directly to individuals. If he did, there would be enormous problems, as some would claim divine authority for what they taught and others would claim divine authority for the completely opposite teaching. Thus most Christians did not stress personal revelation to living individuals.” [Ibid]

Yet, it was precisely the need to establish authority that prompted Christians to forge parts of the New Testament books, as well as entire books of the New Testament, by falsely claiming that they were written, for example, by Peter, Paul or Mark.

Consider, for example, the fact that neither of the two oldest complete New Testaments (codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus) contains the last twelve verses that we find in Mark today. According to Professor Metzger, “Since Mark was not responsible for the composition of the last twelve verses of the generally current form of his Gospel, and since they undoubtedly had been attached to the Gospel before the Church recognized the fourfold Gospels as canonical, it follows that the New Testament contains not four but five evangelic accounts of events subsequent to the Resurrection of Christ.” [p. 229]

Professor Ehrman is less diplomatic. He simply notes: “Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen.” [p. 250] Somebody forged them so they would pass as being written by Mark.

Ehrman doubts that the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter were actually written by Peter. Through the examination of word usage that didn’t gain currency until after Peter’s death in 64 CE — such as the word “Babylon” which was a code word for Rome that came into use near the end of the first century; scholars have come to believe that the letters are forgeries. Moreover, “there are excellent grounds for thinking that Peter could not write.” [p. 70]

Now consider the thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to have been written by Paul. According to Ehrman, “Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.” Six, probably, are forgeries: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians. (Readers who are interested in the evidence used to categorize them as forgeries should turn to pages 95-114 of Forged.)

Thus, readers might now find it ironic that 2 Timothy 3:16 claims, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” After all, 2 Timothy, as noted above, is one of the Pauline letters now thought to have been forged.

Equally ironic, and more amusing, is the use of forged New Testament scripture by the leading proponent of Christian Economics, Gary North. As reported recently in the New York Times, Mr. North not only believes that “the Bible is opposed to organized labor, and especially to organized public employees,” he also believes that no form of government assistance “will escape the ethical limits” of the Apostle Paul’s dictum, in 2 Thessalonians, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Being an evangelical Christian, the poor soul doesn’t even suspect that 2 Thessalonians is a forgery.

Unwittingly, Mr. North and all Christians who take the New Testament at face value commit a disastrous procedural mistake. They establish their Bible-based moral code of right and wrong before ascertaining the true and the false in that Bible. “Effective virtue, as Socrates pointed out long ago, is knowledge; and a code of right and wrong must await upon a perception of the true and the false.” [Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public, p. 20]

Now that Professor Bart Ehrman’s Forged has demonstrated, “from the first century to the twentieth century, people who have called themselves Christian have seen fit to fabricate, falsify, and forge documents, in most instances in order to authorize views that they wanted others to accept,” today’s Christians have no excuse for their procedural confusion.