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« Police State On Campus? | Main | Milton Friedman (1912 - 2006) »

November 17, 2006


That Mr. Ellison is the first Muslim in the United States Congress is surprising to me. I suppose probably it shouldn't be. But at least, even with jerks like Glenn Beck, it suggests that we're making some progress.

On one of your other links: As much as I find defending Hillary Clinton distasteful, Russell Shaw's little rant at Huffington really rubs me the wrong way.

Pardon me if I wonder how much of Hillary's cross-wearing is consultant-driven, as opposed to driven more by belief.

I happen to believe that this lifelong Methodist does believe.

That said, I also happen to wonder how this symbolic display of her faith squares with the almost irrefutable fact that she ignored her husband's multiple adulterous episodes in her quest to be close to power- and then gain some for herself.

So... a reasonable person would thinks she's faking being a Christian. Only he doesn't, he trusts that she's a devout Methodist. Only she can't really believe, because she didn't divorce Bill.

That is such an incredibly WRONG thing to say. Assuming that we can say any given religious interpretation is "correct," you can probably say that her faith views adultery as a bad thing. Her faith also preaches forgiveness, as any non-retarded person above the age of eight or nine should know. Further, I doubt very much you can find anything in her faith (even in a particularly strained reading) that mandates that a person must divorce his or her adulterous spouse.

It's pretty clear that the author has an agenda. Maybe he personally dislikes Clinton. Maybe he's an Obama or Edwards backer and finds it useful to slander her. Or maybe he's just rude, inconsiderate, and more than a little ignorant.

You are right about Shaw's rant. It is not our business whether or not Hillary divorces Bill for religious or any other reason.

I linked to that story because there is a lot of talk about her wearing the cross and speaking glowingly about her faith. Nothing wrong with that except it doesn't necessarily make her a better person than one who chooses to keep her beliefs private. Also if it is okay for Hillary, we should be prepared then not to squirm at similar overt religious expressions by others who may not wear a cross but some other "alien" symbol. My point here is that it is best when religion remains a quiet and private practice.

And if Shaw is a fan of Obama or Edwards, he can rest assured that they too will be falling over each other to advertise the depth of their own faiths. This religious thing in public life is getting a bit out of hand.

You know what political displays of religiosity, such as apparently Hillary wearing a cross more prominently as of late, remind me of? Patriotism. It strikes me as very much the same thing: "I am a good follower [of the State/God] so you should vote for and support me." I don't like it, it's troubling.

Incidentally, Sandy Levinson has an interesting post up today, noting that religion played a huge role in the civil rights movement. Interesting, and somehat uncomfortable for me, because I don't like to think of progress as being fueled by religion.

Religion can be a powerful tool to mobilise hearts and minds of the average person, who has been steeped in a particular mindset regarding churches, temples, mosques,etc. since birth. No question that thecommon en civil rights movement heavily used the religious symbology, but it was all towards a good end.
Interestingly, in Amartya Sen's recent "The Argumentative Indian"( thanks to Shunya for his review that prompted me to get hold of it), Sen brings out the differences of opinion between poet Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi- Tagore is disturbed by Gandhi's use of symbols like the spinning wheel to motivate the masses to engage in peaceful rebellion against the British rule. Even as he acknowledges its power, he is uneasy at the shift from the path of encouraging individual thinking and reason to mass faith and unquestioning following of a leader's precepts to achieve a greater end.
Hilary, McCain, Obama et al. being politicians, are doing whatever it takes for them to get elected, whether it be wearing crosses or hijabs (not an unlikely scenario in the heavily Muslim North Kerala, India, especially when "Zainabunnisa Ahmed" is running for election on the Marxist party slate).

Oops, this should have read "No question that the civil rights movement heavily used the religious symbology, but it was all towards a good end. "

Unfortunately, that is true - the effectiveness of fueling mass movements with religious (or religion like, as in Marxism and Gandhianism) fervor. Most people are just not excited by rational discourse. In fact I wondered out aloud about this inability of the average human mind to move towards an ethical and just society based on reason in a recent post where Shunya engaged me in a debate. I am with Tagore on this one; but the vast majority of people will be with Gandhi, King or Osama bin Laden - eager to congregate under the banner of the spinning wheel, the cross or the crescent masquerading as an exploding bomb!

Speaking of books, there are now three large shelves full of new books lined up for me to read. Amartya Sen's "The Argumentative Indian" is among them. I don't know when I will get to all those books awaiting my attention. If there has been a distinct negative side of blogging (much as I enjoy the pursuit), it's the dent it has made into my own rate of reading which is one of the reasons why I occasionally consider closing down A.B. But then, gathering my thoughts and arguments and putting them down on paper (or the computer screen) too has the distinctive advantage of clearing and sharpening one's mind. I guess, it is a matter of balance.

Anderson's email strikes me as hilariously sour grapes: still stuck on the playground level of "your mama," and not yet graduated to the politico big kids' maxim of "kill 'em with kindness." In essence, Anderson's saying, "Well, you may have won the election, but I have Jesus, so I win, nyah nyah." On this level of discourse, Sen. Chaudhary could have responded, "Well, you may have your one Jesus, but my Brahman has lots of devas, so I win, nyah nyah." I don't mean to mock either faith (or to pretend to philisophical expertise in either), just to point out the absurdity of faith as a trump card in an argument.

This is perhaps just another way of making the point that is the common ground between Joe's and Ruchira's comments on the Hillary Clinton example: I wish we could make religion a personal question, and extricate it from public debate entirely. Given the current international religious mood and our country's history, this is perhaps asking too much, certainly for the time being. I hold some hope that influxes of Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians and others in non Judeo-Christian religions (within which I would place Islam, incidentally) will force some sort of redirection in this regard, but who knows. I have to say, while understanding his flaws and with all respect and sympathy to the Armenians and Pontic Greeks, etc., a figure like Ataturk appeals to me more and more these days.

A personal anecdote regarding responding to evangelicals: I'm still tickled to remember how my mother, whose ironic remove from evangelism was no doubt cultivated by growing up in Waco, Texas, used to respond to evangelicals who accosted us on the street with, "Jesus loves you!"

"And rightly so," she'd say, "I'm a very lovable person."

I love your mom's comment, Anna! Having grown up in the Bible Belt myself, I know how she feels!

I actually don't think Anderson's comments were necessarily "sour grapes" but just her "testifying" or "witnessing" as a(n annoying) religious practice. This was such a foreign concept to me as a practicing Hindu, until I attended an evangelical conference recently with a friend - I blogged about it last month. I couldn't stop the conference participants from saying very similar things to me. It was fascinating...

Historically and philosophically Islam does rightfully belong within the triumvirate of Abrahamic faiths. But to the modern day followers of Judeo-Christianity, the Narcissism of minor differences is a whole lot more significant than the extensive commonalities (much more so with Judaism than with Christianity).

Every year, until 9/11/ 2001, the Southern Baptist Conference used to publish
in the local papers and in their official newsletter an admonishment directed towards Jews at Hanukkah and Hindus around Diwali - the festival of lights in each tradition. The gist of the message was, "Come out of darkness, give up your demonic ways, see the true light; Take Jesus into your lives." Strangely enough, there never was a similar missive asking Muslims to do the same. Either because Muslims do not observe a festival of lights or the Baptists saw brothers in fanaticism among the Muslims. Houston Muslim leaders were questioned by the Houston Chronicle about this omission. One of them replied proudly, "The Baptist faith is powerful. But in Islam, they come up against the Ferrari of faiths." Of course, things changed drastically after 9/11.

In the aftermath of that disaster and global terrorism's spread, Islam may have become an even more "alien" faith in western minds than the far more philosophically removed eastern faiths. The comments made by Billy Graham Junior, Pat Robertson, Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders are testimony to that alienation.

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