All Religions are True, and the Islamic State is, duh, Islamic

20/02/2015
The Caliph will fuck no goats. He's got slaves.

The Caliph will fuck no goats. He’s got slaves.

Ah, the punditocracy…..The only thing worse is religious studies people. Neither can fathom the nature of religion or how it relates to political control over the means of coercion and the public goods and bads that might be provided by modern states. Instead, we hear babble, concocted mostly by activists, ignorant dipshits, true believers, and people with no clue about how to understand or engage politicized religion.

All religion is politicized to some degree. All must at least petition for tolerance from the state, or they will be murdered by the members of the dominant religion who control the means of coercion. It’s hilarious to hear pseudoscholars like Reza Aslan—whose most famous journalistic book points to the politicized origins of Christianity—argue that because the Islamic State is political and has baggage in the political economic circumstances of its origin period and place, it is therefor not Islamic. This has always been true, everwhere, everywhen. Only in the most advanced and tolerant societies have religions been able to operate freely without intercourse with the state, and frankly, even in those religious regulation and discriminatory repression are the rule, not the exception (ask Scientology, the Moonies, the Family, ISKON, etc).

A really excellent piece in the Atlantic by Graeme Wood has set off a flurry of pearl clutching among liberal Muslims, religious folk in general, and hyperstructuralists who never think that religion is ever influential (“…it must be something else…”). Wood draws on the excellent work of Bernard Haykel, one of the few real scholars who has studied contemporary fundamentalist Islamic movements.

It is frustrating to see the disingenuous responses to Wood’s investigation, particularly when they come from people who are supposedly academics who study religion. The argument against classifying the ISLAMIC STATE as Islamic follows the typical 19th century script that Durkheim sought to erase-A’priorist orientations towards religion classify religion according to what the seer believes religion to be based on their own prejudices and commitments. From Obama to the Council on American Islamic Relations, the fact that the ISLAMIC STATE doesn’t fit their vision of what Islam SHOULD be nullifies its qualification to be Islamic. “Should” is not a sociological concept relevant for defining categories. There are many Islams, way more than the three that Geertz amplified in his classic work. As Durkheim identified in his first critical assumption, “all religions are true”, if believers collectively understand things to be a function of their  interpretation of the nature of the sacred and profane as they have been taught in their interpretive communities, then that’s religious.

Nowhere did Wood imply that all Muslims agree with the vividly otherworldly and apocalyptic perspective that undergirds the ideology of the Islamic State, quite the opposite. Not all Christians agree with the vividly otherworldly apocalyptic vision of Pat Robertson or John Hagee, but what moron would claim that they aren’t Christian leaders? Wood goes to great lengths to separate IS from other radical fundamentalist Islamic movements like Al Queda, Wahhabism, and other Salafist fundamentalist sects. Never did he say that this is “popular” or “mainstream” or “inevitable” for Muslims to gravitate to such a radical medieval interpretation of the sacred texts of Islam. But, what he said was that it is inherently Islamic, and that is correct. There is nothing in the IS that falls outside of what might rightly be considered Islamic. If Al-Baghdadi declares himself the hidden Imam, then we have another story. Until he does something like that (and there is no indication that he is going there), there is nothing un-Islamic about declaring a Caliphate, nor holding slaves, murdering dissidents, executing “infidels”, chopping of hands, or any of those other things that were common in the original Caliphate–and many of those things continue in fundamentalist Islamic polities like the House of Saud.

What I really hate about this “debate” is how religious folk (Muslim and Christian and elsewise) dominate the discussion by claiming that because some religious people disagree, this movement is not of that religious tradition. It’s the classic “debunking” style used by bad journalists and pathetic humanities types. Not all X do Y! Therefore, there is no relationship between X and Y, and nobody may claim that there is even a correlation between X and Y or else they are an ethnocentrist racist asshole. Of course, structuralist types like to use the grand debunk to argue that these types of movements are totally explained by colonialism and such shit. Yet, when you talk to movement participants (as Wood did, in Arabic), their concerns are not about structural factors, but cultural ones. Indeed, the House of Saud had no problem with its transition from colonial mandate to dictatorial monarchy. Aramco actually did a bang up job on that front. The Wahhabi do what they do because of religion, and the IS is just taking that up a notch–and ultimately threatening the RELIGIOUS authority of the current occupiers of Mecca and Medina.

Christian Terrorists Threaten Duke Chapel

17/01/2015

chapelhttp://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/for-whom-the-muezzin-calls-duke-muslim-call-prayer/384562/

Ah, the Duke Chapel. It has loud obnoxious chimes that go off every day play sweet Jesus muzak. I never minded. In my four years at Duke it was always kind of nice to hear the bells, and it was great because you always knew when happy hour ended at the Duke Pub. Hardly anyone actually goes to religious services there, and it’s mostly used for events..and for things like a backdrop for the Handmaid’s Tale. Most people at elite universities are not religious, and most of the Christians at Duke are not liberal Methodists so why would they bother.

Duke is a real meritocracy, much like MIT or Johns Hopkins. They’re more interested in getting the best students possible than in pleasing rich alumni by letting in little legacy Buffy who only scored a 1200 on the SAT. Little Buffy winds up at Vanderbilt or Princeton. Since we lifted the Oriental Exclusion Acts in 1965, a funny thing has happened. We’ve been hand-picking the best and the brightest people from all over the world to come to the United States! Many of these people come from Islamic nations; from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. They get into the United States because they have advanced degrees and jobs lined up with corporations or universities that sponsor them. Go to small cities anywhere in the US and look for a physician, dentist, or radiologist. Notice the names, Khan, Bhutt, Anad, Alam….those are just a few that came up at the top of the list for our  humble town of Carbondale.  We have a serious shortage of medical professionals, and we’re filling that with immigrants. Since this is a college town, I could add to that the names of my many colleagues who are Muslim. Those same names would come up if I listed out the top honors students at Carbondale Community High School. As I showed in my book Changing Faith, American Muslims have high levels of education and income. And, their children have a propensity to perform at very high levels in academics. When I attended Duke in the late 1980s there were maybe 200 Muslim students, and most of them were probably international graduate students. Now, of the 15,000 students, over 700 are Muslim, and most of them are undergrads and Americans. And, they apparently turn up for stuff, particularly during Ramadan where they have hundreds of students breaking fast. Muslims make up about .6% of the American population, but 5% of Duke students. 

Duke added a Muslim chaplain to their stable, and as a nice gesture, they were going to chime a call for prayer on Friday afternoon from the giant Christian Chapel. Seems like a nice thing to do to be inclusive, and really a necessity when you have a sizable residential population of undergrads and no alternative in the Durham community. I’m an atheist but I understand that a university should try to help students adjust so that they can succeed.  And, minority faiths like Islam and Judaism don’t have institutional resources in what was until recently the rural South. Ah, but not if you’re a Christianist asshole. It doesn’t matter that the air is filled with Christian calls to worship on Sunday, and that Christian music plays during the Christian holidays. Givin’ them Muslin’s a call for prayer is caving in to Sharia law, and Billy Graham’s demon spawn says that if we don’t shitcan a 1pm firing of the high tech church bells, next year all freshwomen at Duke will be wearing burqas. And that’s the “civilized” response. It seems clear from what has come out from both the Duke Chaplains’ offices and University Central that there were very serious, specific terrorist threats by Christianists. I’m guessing that these were threats against the life of the Duke University Christian Chaplain, the Muslim Associate Chaplain, and threats to blow up the Duke Chapel. I doubt that I’m wrong. Christian terrorists are rather predictable.

Christian Sociology—it’s the opposite of the Sociology of Religion

09/01/2015

sherkat:

This remains appropriate given the sorry state of the sociology of religion, and the ability of Christianist activists like Christian Smith to publish vitriolic blog posts on Oxford University Press. More proof that what I was whining about since 2005 is correct.

Originally posted on Iranianredneck's Weblog:

Religion is good for me, how are you likin’ it?

My laptop crashed, again, and I was busily trying to salvage my old files when I stumbled across something quite appropos given the militant Christianity that has infected the sociology of religion. This is part of the introduction to a paper which written in 2005 and was supposed to have been published in Sociology of Religion in response to Christian Smith’s apologetic claiming that Christianity is just the greatest religion ever.. His invited essay was published, mine was not.

“American sociology was profoundly influenced by the Christian social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century. This group of ministers and lay scholars were dedicated to the cause of improving the lot of the poor and downtrodden, so that they might be saved by the gods of Christianity from a fate of eternal damnation—a fiery hell of eternal torment…

View original 518 more words

Religious Regulation—We need MORE!

07/01/2015

Charliehebdo

The rise of supply side economic theories applied to everything from soap to religion fetishized religious “freedom” as a way to improve consumer choice of their favored religious products, thereby leading to flush markets full of happy consumers and hard-working firms. If we can’t have freedom, then religion won’t work properly and people won’t be satisfied. The problem is that religious consumers are not at all free to choose what they’d desire. Their desires are warped through the force of religious indoctrination beginning in childhood and continuing through the lifecourse. And, the stuff they feed their children is very often some pretty vile stuff born in the depths of savage bronze age monolatries.

We need to redefine what is meant by “religious freedom” in order to begin to confront the problem of the production of bad religion. This is kind of like preventing monopolists from selling bad products that kill people, or porn producers from making actors bareback it. There is a lot of bad religion, and the state has an interest in its regulation. Most importantly, the state has an interest in making sure that children have some degree of religious freedom–that they can choose what faith, if any, they want. Now, of course, we can’t practically round all of them up and put them in reeducation camps, but we can make sure that children are taught about civil society in a civil fashion, and not that everyone who isn’t one of you is deserving of eternal torture.

First, we need complete regulation of education and extension to childcare beginning at birth. We can make it optional to send your kid to daycare when they are very young, but by age 4 all kids should be required to attend secular public schools. All K-12 religious educational institutions should be eliminated and homeschooling should be made illegal.  If you want to teach your kids about your gods, do it at church or on your own time. Religious education is inherently divisive and it has a strong tendency to harbor extremism across all religious traditions.  Second, all persons who claim as an occupation to be a minister or religious leader must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and must be certified by an organized and registered religious denomination (everyone’s car has to be registered and insured, but religious hucksters can do anything they want?). Religious salepeople should also be subject to background checks and felons (terrorists and child molesters) should be denied a license to sell religion. No more goofball jackleg ministers in storefronts. You wanna buy religion? You have to go to a legitimate religion dealer, just like you have to go to the official weed dispenser or liquor retailer. Third, a salary cap on all directors of non-profit organizations (not just religion peddlers). and laws preventing the conversion or use of religious resources for private wealth and gain. Fourth, we need to vigorously oppose efforts to  silence people who criticize religion and challenge religious beliefs and authority, and demand that religious devotees follow the law. Keep your idiotic strongly held beliefs to yourself.

100 lashes if you haven’t laughed yourself to death yet.

Of course, none of this will happen. We’re allowing millions of children to have no education and then act as if it’s just as good as going to school. We’re privileging religious schools with tax breaks, free access to the children, and now direct subsidies in many places. Gee, you’d think the Christianists would worry about the Islamist school getting some of those vouchers, but in the UK it’s been more like a logrolling exercise with Christians, Jews, and Muslims working together to steal money from the state. Nothing critical of religion (at least not Christianity or Judaism) is taught in any of our supposedly secular schools, and religious activists are often quite successful in removing scientific and cultural content for all students. Religious salesmen continue to make huge profits, and the tax system favoring religion gives them myriad ways to become wealthy and powerful in a completely unregulated and undertaxed religion industry. And, of course, now religious nutjobs are free to flout any law they disagree with based on their sincerely held beliefs. Next up, they’ll say that public criticism denies Christians religious freedom. Making fun of people’s gods is disrespectful, and that crushes their freedom to demand moral superiority. Next, I guess they’ll start shooting people who offend their gods.

Watermelon and Easter Hay….Zappadan always ends this way….

21/12/2014

Shut up! On the eve of the end…..

21/12/2014

Only one day left until the celebration begins and ends. Time to shut up and listen…..

Frank Zappa and Black Sabbath

20/12/2014

Zappa was always a kingmaker. If he were a whore, he would have been the greatest and richest corporate rock producer in the world. But, alas, Frank wasn’t in it for the money. Still, whenever he sneezed, people listened. Zappa thought Sabbath were great, while early critics panned them. From an interview with Geezer Butler:

WW: Speaking of prejudice, during those early years, Sabbath got some of the worst reviews ever. Critics seemed to hate the band – but a number of years later, when Sabbath proved to be so influential, they completely flip-flopped. What was the moment where you first saw that sea change?

GB: I think some of them got an inkling when Frank Zappa did this interview in one of the big English music papers. They were asking him what music he was listening to at the time, and he said, “Black Sabbath.” And at the time, Frank Zappa was really well thought of critically. And I thought he was joking! (Laughs.) But he thought “Supernaut” [from 1972’s Black Sabbath, Vol. 4] was the best riff he’d ever heard. And a lot of critics went, “Well, if Zappa likes Black Sabbath, maybe we should give them another listen.” So that turned some of the people.

Oh wait, that’s Barry Manilow!

 

There is no greater torture than Lumpy Gravy…

19/12/2014

 

Back in the day, it was hard to find a tape of Lumpy Gravy. Albums were nonexistent, and all people had were bootleg cassette recordings. It was torture. I’m hoping that all of the old bootlegged cassettes of Lumpy Gravy will be shoved up Dick Cheney’s ass. Not as tortore, of course, because that is not torture. But, instead, as rectal feeding to get him to loosen his ass so that maybe his mind will follow (to paraphrase Moon Unit).

You are What You Is…..And Vaclav Havel did not condone torture…..but loved Zappa

17/12/2014

You is what you am. Zappa was an icon of the underground movements in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Soviet Empire. He was especially popular in Czechoslovaka, and Czech Republic founding father Vaclav Havel was a huge Zappa fan. The Power of the Powerless, as Havel wrote, was rooted in the cultural communities that could situate opposition to totalitarianism in a way that could not be broken. The enduring aspect of cultural opposition is the power to define who is an asshole and who is cool. By creating cultures within indigenous communities and gravitating toward alternative “underground” cultural symbols, sounds, and practices, the hegemonic power of the totalitarian state was broken, and the assholes who served as toadies of those states lost power and influence (except in Russia, where the assholes came back to power….but they didn’t like Zappa as much in Russia).

At Havel’s request, Zappa was supposed to be named a special ambassador for trade and culture between the United States and Czech, however US Secretary of State James Baker nixed it because Zappa had made fun of Baker and his wife during his testimony before the Senate on censoring rock lyrics. Havel appointed him in an unofficial capacity anyway.

The Pigs. Because if you’re gonna be tortured, its probably gonna be by the pigs…..

17/12/2014

First, there is the issue of making sense of why the pigs are pigs and why they are always torturing and killing people. It’s because of the smoke. They totally want the smoke to only go in one direction, and if you fuck with the smoke, they’ll fuck with you. As we have already been informed, by those who inform us, pigs are gonna fucking kill you if you fuck with the smoke, even if you are a twelve year old child, and you’d better fucking like it or the pigs will hunt you down and kill you!

Second, Jesus fuck. they pigs are just going to torture you because they’re pigs.

 

And sometimes a pig has wings…..rarely….Kind of a tribute to Al Dimeola, I think….

 


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