Monday, November 10, 2008

At Nascar, Don't Expect a Right Turn

I never really understood the Republican use of the phrases "liberal elite" and "media elite" until I saw "Liberal elite" and "media elite" mean "people with basic education and reasoning abilities", unlike "joe six pack", who can be defined as "a guy who expects that at some point during a nascar event, one of the cars will turn right."

conservapedia, in case you haven't heard of it, is the republican answer to wikipedia, which, unbeknownst to me, has a serious liberal bias. (they allow entries that contain actual, verifiable facts. elitist bastards!)

here is conservapedia's entry on Islam, which is, amusingly/appallingly, under, which I believe to be someone's 6th grade report.

Muslims believe that God revealed the Q'ran (or Koran) to Muhammad and, despite his illiteracy, caused him to transcribe it. Muhammed was employed, by his first wife, as a scribe. For those with small vocabularies, a scribe was a secretary. Scribe was a good job in those days because so few people were literate. Muhammed was actually much better educated than the average Arab at the time.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.4 billion followers, the number of Muslims is rapidly growing, mainly due to high birth rates, in both Muslim-majority and other countries . Conversions to Christianity (from any faith or lack thereof) outnumber those to Islam, but can not keep up with the birthrate discrepancy. What an odd non sequitur at the end of the paragraph. (Oh, and cannot is one word, not two.) Giving population data on any group is relevant, but then comparing that to another, unrelated group, and explaining what the difference is, is . . . um . . . odd. "Well, Christianity is so much better than Islam that we would have more adherents and more growth, but we just can't keep up with those baby-making machines. Maybe it's the chador that explains all that extra fertility."

Tribal elders elected Abu Bakr to be Muhammad's successor, or Caliph(Khalifa). "Tribal elders"? Seriously? You see, primitive societies have tribal elders. Us advanced, civilized folk have senators and presidents and ministers. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say on this subject. Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr , who was Muhammad's intimate friend and collaborator. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. Paints a different picture doesn't it? (This is where Shi'a and Sunni Islam broke apart. Sunni believe Abu Bakr was the rightful first caliph. Shi'a believe Ali, Muhammad's best friend, son-in-law and the second convert to Islam ever was the rightful first caliph.)

During Umar's ten year reign, Islam invaded and spread through the sword into Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and parts of Iran. Umar was assassinated by a Persian (modern day Iran) in 644, and was succeeded by Uthman Ibn Ahad, who continued the invasions to spread Islam into North Africa, Cyprus, the rest of Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of India and Pakistan. Over the next two centuries, Islamic armies continued to expanded Islam's empire into sub-Saharan Africa,Spain, Southeast and Central Asia, and Turkey. Religions don't invade or "spread through the sword" anything. A religion is an idea, a belief. When was the last time you were attacked by an idea? And I love "spread through the sword". I checked the conservapedia entry on Christianity. The Crusades are mentioned, but nothing about "invasions" and "swords". Perhaps the Crusaders used guns? Rocket launchers? The power of pure love?

The next section is called "Divisions within Islam". In the article on Christianity (to be dissected soon), this is called "Main Christian Groups". Hmmm . . . so Christians have "groups" and Islam has "divisions". Interesting, yes?

Sufis, a name apparently taken from the wool garments they wear, developed around mystical practices and trance-induced revelations. First of all, Sufis are people, Sufism is the belief system. Calling them a denomination of Islam is misleading, as well. Sufis consider themselves Islamic, many Muslims do not. Here is Wiki's explanation of the name: The lexical root of Sufi is variously traced to ṣūf "wool", referring either to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore, or possibly to ṣafā "purity". The two were combined by al-Rudhabari who said, "The Sufi is the one who wears wool on top of purity." Look at that, an actual explanation of a word in another language, containing actual facts. As for the beliefs of Sufism, the Wiki article is quite long, worth a good read, and doesn't contain the phrases "mystical practices" or "trance-induced revelations".

Here's an explanation (I'm using the word loosely) of Wahhabism and the Taliban, both of which get entire Wiki articles, not a sentence each. The conservative Wahhabis are found today in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Today the Wahhabi line has a tendency to produce extremists, such as Osama bin Laden. Some critics would argue that the Taliban of Afghanistan took conservative reform to an extreme. "Extreme" used twice in two sentences. Really. "Extreme" gets no play at all in the article on Christianity. We don't even get an explanation of what the tenants of Wahhabism are, what the Taliban is, or what conservative reform means in the context of Islam. No information, no facts, just a bunch of funny names and the extreme overuse of "extreme". (I'm not sure why they used "extremist" to describe Osama bin Laden. "Terrorist" would actually have been accurate in this situation. Oddly, "terrorist" came up multiple times in the article on Barack Obama.)

Some utterances that Mohammed was unsure about, dubbed the Satanic verses, would later be incorporated in a novel in modern times by Salmon Rushdie who would then be subject to a death degree from the leader of Iran for his writing. Ah, the Satanic Verses. (Basically, Muhammad is said to have recited two verses into the Q'ran that he later retracted as false. Divine revelation being what it is, this would be quite shocking.) First of all, it's helpful to know who "dubbed" them the Satanic Verses. The phrase comes from Sir William Muir, a 19th century minor functionary of the British Empire. He wrote poorly researched books on Islam to pass the time while he wasn't doing his job in the Middle East. Many scholars even doubt the incident occurred. There certainly isn't any independent evidence of it. A serious historical researcher, Muir wasn't. As for Salmon Rushdie's death sentence, it's since been removed, and, really, boo-fucking-hoo. What did he expect with that racist piece of shit book?

The Quran is longer than the Bible and written in general order of longest chapters to shortest rather than in any order of when they were spoken, sometimes making the work appear to be confusing. In all there are 114 chapters. Most of the later recorded sayings of Mohammed, which were also more warlike, actually appear earlier in the text. The Q'ran is "longer than the Bible"? Is this the standard by which we judge any written text? Is the word "bible" now like the word "gallon"? "This new book by Jonathan Kellerman is a quarter-bible." And why are we arguing where the chapters appear vs. when they were said? I couldn't find another reference to this anywhere. The Bible jumps around a bit, too. Actually, a lot. In fact, the same story is told four different times, four different ways, each one emphasizing different points and stating them in different ways. Is that not confusing? And, why are we surprised that a book, written 1300 years ago, in a different language, by people with different traditions than ours, might be confusing on first read? I think the message here is, "The Q'ran is wrong it's different than the Bible, which I consider right and literally true." Literally! (Why don't these people regularly bury clay pots touched by menstruating women? That's in the Bible, too.) And don't even get me started on shrimp!

That's really what this is all about kids: the ghettoization of Christianity. See, I believe what I believe because of research and life experience. I welcome all ideas and sometimes, these ideas change me, because they are good ideas. I am not afraid of being changed. Everyone is changed, all the time. Nothing remains the same. Not you and not me.

Fundagelicals, on the other hand, are afraid of ideas. They believe that what they believe is the only thing keeping them from hell. By hell, I mean: ETERNAL TORTURE AND BURNING AND TORTURE AT THE HANDS OF SATAN. SATAN! ETERNAL! If I thought every idea and fact was a potential threat to avoiding SATAN!, I'd be nervous about ideas and facts, too. And that's sad.

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