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    nonsense

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    February 2, 2016
    The Downside of Institutionalized Religion

    by Lawrence Davidson



    Ideologies are pre-set forms of thinking that shape people’s worldviews and, supposedly, help to order and simplify reality. While this supposition is always flawed to one extent or another, ideologies can be very seductive. In part this is because they free their adherents from the hard work of critical thinking. Thus, they are often held onto tenaciously.

    Because ideologies distort reality, they are particularly unsuited for those aspiring to power as well as their devoted supporters. History is full of examples of politically powerful ideologies that underscore this fact: fascism, communism, various military cults (particularly popular in South America and the Middle East) and even the ideology of democracy as manipulated by corrupt elites, who play the Pied Piper to the masses.

    Yet there is still one more ideology out there which, even now, wreaks havoc by either claiming for itself the trappings of secular power or attaching itself in some influential advisory way to the institutions of power. That ideology is religion in its various institutional manifestations.

    I want to emphasize that I am not referring to the personal religious convictions of millions by which life is made to appear understandable and meaningful. Whether such convictions are accurate or not, they play an important role at the individual level and, as long as they do not promote harmful intolerance, should be left to benignly function at the local level. What I am referring to are religious ideologies that are institutionalized in bureaucracies that can project power much as do secular institutions of authority. Religious ideologies so institutionalized see themselves as possessed of God-given truth while playing the game of power amidst human competitors.

    Religion in Power

    It is often said that we live in an age of religious revival. Whatever this might say for the “spiritual” shortcomings of modernity, this is a state of affairs rife with political danger. A quick look at history can again easily demonstrate why this is so.

    * In the 10th through 15th centuries in Europe, Roman Catholicism was a strong political power centered in the Papacy. Historians often claim it preserved what was left of Greco-Roman civilization ((despite the fact that the Church closed down the ancient system of public baths.) It also brought with it the bloodletting of the Crusades and the tortures of the Inquisition.

    * When, briefly, the Protestants tasted political power in the form of Calvin’s Geneva, Savonarola’s Florence, Cromwell’s England, and the early New World establishments of North America, the result was widespread intolerance, civil war, burning flesh at Salem and elsewhere and, of course, no dancing. It does not take great imagination to see the potential for high levels of intolerance occurring if some representative of today’s Christian right, say Ted Cruz, takes power in the U.S.

    * Buddhism used to be universally revered as a religion of peace and tolerance. However, put it in power or ally it to those who politically rule, and what once was benign turns malignant. Thus, consider the self-identified Buddhist government of Sri Lanka and its brutal campaign against the Tamils in the north of that country. Likewise, you can find Buddhists allied to the government of Myanmar crying for the blood of the country’s Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

    * There is a lot of Hindu fanaticism in India, and It remains to be seen if the present government of that country, dominated now by Hindu nationalists, will again turn loose the religious passion which, in the recent past, has led to sectarian violence and massacres of India’s religious minorities (again, notably Muslims).

    * Where the Muslims seek or hold state power, the situation is little different. According to Sunni tradition, the ethical standards of behavior set down in the Quran did not dictate state behavior beyond the brief reign of the so-called “rightly guided Caliphs.” Shiites often point out that things fell apart almost immediately upon Mohammad’s death. Civil war and internecine slaughter followed in both scenarios.

    Today, in Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates, one finds Sunni intolerance of Shiite Islam and the exploitation of non-citizen laborers despite their being fellow Muslims. In Shia Iran, authorities seem unsure just how tolerant or intolerant to be toward more moderate interpretations of their own, now politicized, religious tenets.

    Then, of course, you have various organizations, claiming to be Sunni Muslim, ranging from ISIS to Al Nusra or some other Al Qaeda variant, all reaching for political power. Where they have tasted success, as in the case of ISIS, the consequences have been particularly bad.

    * Since 1948 Judaism has succumbed to the same fate as other world religions entangling themselves in politics. Despite all the rationalizations, propaganda, and self-deception, it is clear that institutional Judaism is now firmly melded to the deeply discriminatory and particularly brutal political ideology of Zionism. I use the word “melded” because what we have here is something more than just an alliance of two separate entities. The Zionists have insisted since 1917, the year of the Balfour Declaration, was proclaimed, that the fate of Judaism and an Israeli “national home” are thoroughly intertwined. Their insistent manipulations have resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The consequences of this melding have been horrific. If you want to know just how horrid things have become, there are numerous Palestinian and Jewish human rights groups that are easily found on the web which will document Israeli behavior in all its dehumanizing detail.

    For a more personalized assessment of just what this melding means for Judaism as a religion I recommend the recent book by Marc H. Ellis entitled The Heartbeat of the Prophetic (New Diaspora Books, 2015). Ellis is a Jewish theologian who, in the 1970s, was greatly influenced by the work of Roman Catholic priests in Latin America who were promoting “liberation theology.” That “for the good of the people” interpretation of religion was corrosive of the institutionalized Church, and so the movement was ultimately stifled. However, Ellis thought that the same philosophy could be applied to Judaism – an insight that eventually led him to denounce Zionized Judaism in a manner reminiscent of the prophets of the Old Testament.

    For Ellis, institutionalized Judaism has been reduced to an adjunct of an expansionist and racist political ideology. He feels that there is no getting around the inherent evil of this situation. No two-state solution or other “progressive” approach can erase it. As long as Judaism persists in identifying itself in terms of the Israeli state and Zionist ideology, the ethical underpinnings of the religion are left behind in the wreckage of an evolving “Jewish empire.”

    Lessons to Be Learned

    What have all these historical examples to teach those of religious faith? Some fundamentalists would have us believe the lesson is to remain humble and obedient in the face of an unfathomable deity whose mysterious purposes are simply beyond human comprehension. Yet there is nothing incomprehensible about the repetitive death, destruction and intolerance bred by institutionalized ideologies. And, as the historical examples given above tell us, religious ideology is no exception.

    A better lesson learned seems to be: if you want to be religious, keep it personal and tolerant, avoid tendencies toward institutionalization beyond the level of local charity and organized good works, and stay clear of political alliances. It is said that Jesus told his disciples that “where two or three of you are gathered together there I too will be.” Those are just about the right numbers when it comes to keeping religion safe for the believers and non-believers alike. After all, when you have two or three thousand, or two or three million gathered together, for whatever purpose, then something quite different from a helpful and humane spirit is likely to be present.

    Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.
     
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    The Amish (/ˈɑːmɪʃ/; Pennsylvania Dutch: Amisch, German: Amische) are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to, but distinct from, Mennonite churches. The Amish are known forsimple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann.[2] Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.[3]

    In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as "Pennsylvania Dutch," although a dialect of Swiss German is used by Old Order Amish in the Adams County, Indiana area.[4] As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish lived in the United States and about 1,500 lived in Canada.[5] A 2008 study suggested their numbers had increased to 227,000,[6] and in 2010 a study suggested their population had grown by 10 percent in the past two years to 249,000, with increasing movement to the West.[7]Most of the Amish continue to have 6–7 children while benefiting from the major decrease in infant and maternal mortality in the 20th century. Between 1992 and 2013, the Amish population increased by 120%,[8] while the US population increased by only 23%.[citation needed]

    Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage within the Amish church. Once a person is baptized with the church, he or she may marry only within the faith. Church districts average between 20 and 40 families, and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons.[9] The rules of the church, the Ordnung, must be observed by every member and cover most aspects of day-to-day living, including prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Most Amish do not buy commercial insurance or participate in Social Security. As present-day Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service. The Amish value rural life, manual labor and humility, all under the auspices of living what they interpret to be God's word.

    Members who do not conform to these community expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned,[10] a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church. Almost 90 percent of Amish teenagers choose to be baptized and join the church.[10]During adolescence rumspringa ("running around") in some communities, nonconforming behavior that would result in the shunning of an adult who had made the permanent commitment of baptism, may meet with a degree of forbearance.[11]Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world, i.e. American and Canadian society. There is generally a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They typically operate their own one-room schoolsand discontinue formal education after grade eight, at age 13/14.[10] Until the children turn 16, they have vocational training under the tutelage of their parents, community, and the school teacher.

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    L'ÉDITO
    Du balai !
    Virginie Larousse - publié le 26/06/2018

    À l'évocation du mot « sorcière », l'imagination frétille. Vieilles femmes au nez crochu, chaudrons fumant d'un liquide visqueux, sortilèges effrayants... Et cet incroyable balai magique sur lequel ces chevalières de mauvais augure fendent les airs tout en ricanant de leurs méfaits. On se prend alors à sourire... Comment diable - si j'ose dire - a-t-on pu croire à de telles sornettes ? Et l'on continue, petits et grands, à se délecter de ces histoires de fées Carabosse qui peuplent nos contes.

    L'histoire de celles - plus rarement de ceux - qui furent qualifiées du titre de « sorcière » n'a pourtant rien d'un conte de fées. Rien qui puisse prêter à sourire, encore moins à rire. C'est l'histoire abominable de milliers de femmes qui, du XIVe au XVIIIe siècle, sont envoyées par dizaines de milliers au bûcher, au motif le plus souvent fallacieux qu'elles auraient fait mourir leur mari. Un enfant. Leur belle-mère. Du bétail. C'est l'histoire de ces boucs émissaires qui servent à catalyser la fureur ou la crainte, à une époque où bien des phénomènes demeurent inexpliqués.

    C'est aussi, finalement, l'histoire d'une terreur masculine face au sexe féminin. Ces femmes dérangent parce qu'elles savent. Elles savent mettre au monde les enfants, soigner par l'imposition de leurs mains ou par les plantes. Par quelle supercherie ces descendantes de Pandore et d'Ève ont-elles acquis ce savoir, si ce n'est du diable lui-même ? Ces femmes savantes, encore raillées par Molière au XVIIe siècle, concentrent donc toutes les haines misogynes de leur époque - celles des autorités religieuses, politiques et juridiques, verrouillées en l'occurrence par des hommes. Et ce balai servant d'emblème aux sorcières est loin d'être anodin : symbole ménager par excellence, l'objet - dont la forme phallique n'aura échappé à personne -, est scandaleusement détourné de son usage habituel, témoignant de l'insupportable liberté de ces effrontées.

    Il fut un temps où accuser quelqu'un de sorcellerie revenait à signer son arrêt de mort. Ce temps, du reste, se conjugue toujours au présent dans certains pays comme le Népal, l'Inde ou le Cameroun. « Mais toutes les femmes, même celles qui n'ont jamais été accusées, ont subi les effets de la chasse aux sorcières, écrit l'essayiste Mona Chollet (1). La mise en scène publique des supplices, puissant instrument de terreur et de discipline collective, leur intimait de se montrer discrètes, dociles, soumises, de ne pas faire de vagues. En outre, elles ont dû acquérir la conviction qu'elles incarnaient le mal ; elles ont dû se persuader de leur culpabilité et de leur noirceur fondamentales. » D'autant que toutes les filles d'Ève sont des sorcières en puissance. Ne dit-on pas d'une jolie femme qu'elle a du charme ? C'est pour mettre fin à cette suspicion généralisée que, dans les années 1970, des intellectuelles ou activistes ont décidé de revendiquer haut et fort le titre de sorcière. L'écrivaine Xavière Gauthier lance ainsi la revue Sorcières en 1975, conçue comme un espace de liberté de parole féminine. Et aujourd'hui, les descendantes de Circé font partie intégrante de la pop culture. Fin d'une superstition ou ultime sortilège ?

    (1) Sorcières, la puissance invaincue des femmes, par Mona Chollet (La Découverte, à paraître en septembre 2018).
     
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    السماجة الثقافية للأصولية

    جهاد الزين

    ليس هينا أن يكون البلد، لبنان، لم يخرج بعد من صدمة هجوم الكنيسة على "مشروع ليلى". هذا يكشف المدى الانغلاقي المتزايد للبيئات الطائفية اللبنانية مع أن البيئة المسيحية رغم ظهور حواجز الكنيسة المخيفة ثقافيا بين وقت وآخر إلا أنها بيئة لا تُقارَن ليبراليتُها الاجتماعية والثقافية مع تشدّدات البيئة الأصولية المسلمة سنةً وشيعة. الحالة الدرزية حالة محافظة في السياسة والتقاليد الاجتماعية لكنها غير معنية داخل مناطقها بالضبط الثقافي للنتاج المعاصر. وكما أنه لا يمكن ولا يجب أن تُحسَب مهرجانات بيت الدين على انفتاح الحالة الطائفية، لا يمكن أن نَحْتَسِب مهرجانات صور أو مهرجانات بعلبك على انفتاح الحالة الأصولية الشيعية! ولا الآن مهرجانات صيدا على السلفية السنية، رغم أن الغيتو الطائفي، أي غيتو، متقوقع بالتكوين.

    من الثابت أن الأحزاب الإسلامية الأصولية العربية لم تنتج إسما كبيرا واحداً في الأدب والمسرح والفنون منذ قرن إلى اليوم. حتى في الأربعين عاما الأخيرة، وقد أصبحت الأصولية الشيعية حاضرة مع الأصولية السنية، بمعزل عن تفاوت أشكال الحضور، لم نسمع إسما لبنانيا أو عراقيا أو يمنيا، وهي بالتحديد أماكن نفوذ وانتشار الأصولية الشيعية، تَحوّل إلى ظاهرة جدية في الأدب والمسرح والفنون عموما.

    ليست البيئة الأصولية السنية والشيعية العربية رغم الدور الكبير الذي لعبته وتلعبه عربيا وإقليميا مع كل الكوارث التفكّكية التي تنتج عن سياساتها على شعوب ودول المنطقة، أيا تكن المبررات، بيئة مبدعة ومحترمة في المجال الثقافي المعاصر. لديها ثقافتها، بل لديها عالمها الثقافي وقدرة أحيانا على الانتشار الشعبي، لكنها في المجال الثقافي الحداثي المعترف به بين النخب العربية الليبرالية واليسارية هي بيئة ركيكة النتاجات. قوتها الخطيرة هي في القدرة على تحريك العامة من الناس بأفكار غيبية ومتخلفة وساذجة.

    تنمو الثقافة العميقة الإبداعية خارج البيئة الأصولية وأقلامها. في السعودية خارج البيئة الأصولية، وهناك نتاج فائق الأهمية، منه ما نعرفه والكثير مما لا نعرفه في الفن التشكيلي والشعر والرواية. أما في إيران فعلينا الاعتراف أنه وإن كان الفكر الديني لم ينتِج منذ علي شريعتي ثم عبد الكريم سروش، وكلاهما منشقان عن الفكر السائد أو تحولا إلى منشقّين عن الفكر الأصولي، إلا أن هناك استثناء يؤكد القاعدة في إيران هي السينما الإيرانية التي رغم كل الضبط والرقابة والقمع الذي يمارسه النظام الديني فقد احتلت مكانة عالمية إبداعية لمخرجين معظمهم يعمل في إيران ثم يخرج بعضهم لاحقا إلى الرحاب العامرة التي يستقبلهم فيها النقاد الغربيون، وتعرض أفلامهم في أهم العواصم.

    لا تفسير عندي للظاهرة السينمائية الإيرانية إلا بأنها الاستثناء الخصب الذي يؤكد القاعدة الضحلة للفقر الثقافي الهائل لدى التيارات الدينية الأصولية، وهي في عمقها بمعزل عن الاختلافات الفقهية السنية والشيعية فقيرة ومُثبَتَة الفقر المريع ثقافيا. ماذا أكثر من الدليل المصري؟ تسعون عاما على تأسيس حركة الإخوان المسلمين في مصر ولم يخرج من هذه الحركة شاعر أو ناقد أو رسام أو روائي واحد ذو قيمة معترفٍ بها عربيا أو دولياً!

    حزب الله في لبنان جزء من هذه الضحالة الثقافية الأصولية وليس فيه على المستوى الثقافي أيٌُ ملمح حتى من الاستثناء الإيراني رغم أنه سياسيا ودينيا وأيديولوجيا حزب كامل الولاء للنظام الإيراني. يقيم حزب الله في القرى والضواحي التي يسيطر عليها نظاما "ثقافيا" كاملا من المظاهر والشعارات والأفكار والطقوس . إنه نظام لا ثقافي سمج من حيث انغلاقيته وتكراريته وحتى هرطقاته الأكثر انغلاقا من الطقوس التقليدية التي تحولت في الواقع إلى تقاليد شعبية بسبب تأثير المدرسة الأصولية الإيرانية.


    لا أقف هنا ولا يمكن أن أقف ضد حق تيار شعبي في التعبير عن نفسه، ولكني من دون تردد أدين السيطرة المطلقة الممارَسة في القرى والضواحي التي تمنع حرية التعبير الثقافي المكبلة بمحرمات مُحبِطة لأي تنوع. هذا هو الجو نفسه الذي تمارسه التيارات السلفية السنية حين تسيطر على منطقة ما. بهذا المعنى الثقافي كل أصولية دينية هي داعشية. وتدهشك على الصعيد الإسلامي التفسيرات المتطابقة للمحظورات بين كل أنواع "الداعشيات" الثقافية رغم الاختلافات المذهبية والصراعات في الأمن والسياسة والارتباط وطبعا الفقه بينها. بل حين يتدخل المحظور الديني يغيب الفارق التشدّدي بين الأصوليات الدينية كلها على الرغم، كما أشرتُ أعلاه، من تفاوتات التدخل وأحجامه.

    هناك سماجة ثقافية ينبني عليها نظام حكم. أزعم أنني هنا "أفْصُل" السياسي عن الثقافي في تقييم هذه الظاهرة وإن كان الأول يحمي الثاني.

    ما أنا بصدده هنا هو النظام التلقيني المحمي والمتكرر الذي يحوّل الحياةَ في المناطق إلى نوع من العسكرة الطقوسية للمجتمع. هذه هي السماجة الثقافية. وهذا نوع خاص من "السلبطة" التي تخنق الأوكسيجين الثقافي في أي بيئة.

    أما لصوص الطبقة السياسية اللبنانية بمختلف تنويعاتها وفجورهم الفسادي فهذا حديث مختلف. على هذا الصعيد الفسادي ليس لديّ كمواطن أي مطلب لأنه لا أمل عندي في أي إصلاح ولأنه لم يعد ممكنا في الجيل الراهن عمل أي شيء. أعتذر من الذين لا زالوا يملكون بعض التفاؤل ولو أن هذا اليأس قاتلٌ على الصعيد المهني كمعلق سياسي عليه أن يكتب مقالات تبيع الأوهام الإصلاحية ويجب أن تدّعي الترويج لها.

    النهار
    06.08.2019
     
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