Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quarrel over the interpretation of bodies

Religion and Art: Allies or Adversaries? By Brian Kluepfel
In her forthcoming book, Complex Delight: Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 (University of California Press, 2007), Miles notes a historical demarcation: until the 1700s, the breast, particularly that of Virgin Mary, was a religious symbol. In the post-Renaissance world, she says, the body became an “object of both erotic pleasure and medical use,” objectifying what was once holy. “The conflict is a quarrel over the interpretation of bodies,” Miles said.
Miles defined religious art as “art that offers the viewer orientation in the universe and a consonance with other living beings.” She said that there is a schism between religion and media culture, in which “bodies are a spectacle, a source of medical scrutiny or pleasure and pain.” Miles offered a strong view about what religious art should stand against. Art that reinforces consumerism and capitalist values, she said, is certainly not religious, even if it uses religious imagery (as in television commercials, for example, that use images of Adam and Eve). Return to Inside Fordham home page

Friday, February 23, 2007

Plato or Aristotle hardly reflected the average mentality of the time

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
There are many good books on mankind's practice of human sacrifice -- again, it is our "default" religion -- but perhaps the best one is Violence Unveiled by Gil Bailie, because he places it in the context of the overall arc of salvation. I cannot possibly do justice to his full argument here, but in his view, human beings were actually in desperate need of a cure for religion, and Christianity turned out to be this cure. "Ironically," Jesus was a victim -- and as a result, a permanent reminder -- of that which he came to cure -- the ritual scapegoating of victims in order to create social solidarity. For nothing creates social solidarity and temporarily eases the war of each against all so much as when everyone's aggression is hypnotically focussed on a sacrificial victim...
As I mentioned yesterday, not only did the ancient Jews begin to reflect superior ideals that far surpassed their contemporaries, but these ideals have still failed to permeate into many modern groups -- e.g., in Africa, China, and Islam. Not only that, but the modern West has produced its own permanent counter-revolution in the form of the international left, which, since it rejects the cure for religion, is reverting back to primordial religion -- undisguised "born again" paganism in the form of body mutilation, magic (almost all "new agers" and "integralists" are leftists), infrahuman entertainment, the cult of celebrity, blood worship ("multi-culturalism"), pantheistic environmentalism, sexual license unbound from any sacred channel, etc.
As mentioned yesterday, Breiner's book Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today goes into some of the distinct values of the ancient Jews, as mankind took a particularly dramatic turn into verticality. I just realized I have posted some of the following material before, but it can't hurt to review the situation. Starting first with the goyim, Breiner notes that the women of ancient Greece were essentially slaves. A wife’s function was to “look after the household and produce children -- preferably boys.” While courtesans -- who were used for pleasure rather than procreation -- could be educated, wives were illiterate.
Similar to Islamic societies today, the ancient Greeks “viewed men as sane and stable while women were considered mad, hysterical, and possibly dangerous and destructive to men.” Furthermore, “a woman’s freedom was severely restricted” and she was without power. “A man could sell his daughter or sister into concubinage if he wished.” Children of concubines were simply “aborted, killed or sold into slavery.” (Please bear in mind that we are not talking about luminaries such as Plato or Aristotle, who hardly reflected the average mentality of the time.)
At the time of Pericles in the late 5th century BC, a girl could marry only through parental arrangement: “no man married for love.” And once the marriage took place and the Athenian bride went to live with her husband, “she was cut off from her family and became a menial worker in her husband’s home.” Even the children she bore were not her own, but belonged to the husband to dispense with as he saw fit. Out of a population of 400,000, only 14,240 people had full civil rights. The rest were women, children and slaves. Unwanted children were simply exposed on a mountainside to die. “In all the Greek cities except Thebes the father had the right to kill his child at birth without question. In all cities except Athens the father could sell his children to slave dealers.” Female infanticide was the norm. Like China today, very few families raised more than one daughter. Even then, girls were given inferior food and no education.
Breiner feels that the revulsion towards women was at the basis of Greek male homosexuality. Can you think of a better explanation? The fashionable modern idea -- a fine example of leftist anti-scientific magical thinking, by the way -- is that homosexuality is purely “genetic” and not subject to environmental influences. If so, how does one account for the prevalence of Ancient Greek homosexuality? “It was considered quite proper for the young men of Athens to engage sexually with older men, and most did.” “Merchants would import handsome boys to be sold to the highest bidder”; these boys would “be first used as concubines and later as slaves.”
Breiner speculates that “homosexual pederasty was so universal in Greek society” because it was “a means of ‘rescuing’ the male child from the perceived dangers of women...” “Boy brothels flourished in every city and a child prostitute could be rented, even at the height of Athenian culture... A freeborn child might see his father having sexual relations with a child his own age who was a slave” (!!!). In this context, the evolution of so-called "homophobia" by the ancient Hebrews was clearly an advance, not a regression, as it particularly benefitted women and children.
I don’t even have time to get into the pervasive human and animal sacrifice. “Human life was considered so short and cheap that there was little concern about killing. When a town was captured the men were automatically killed or sold into slavery and the women were taken as concubines or slaves.” Traits such as “gentleness, kindness, industry, honesty, and integrity were scorned as effeminate and inferior.”
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Obviously, human beings were desperately in need of a vertical intervention to save them from the hell on earth they had created. All of us continue to benefit everyday from that little sliver of light that miraculously opened up in a world of infrahuman darkness. More on which -- now, don't absolutely hold me to it, just in case I am seized by other energies -- tomorrow.
Islamic parenting advice, untouched by the arc of salvation. posted by Gagdad Bob at 2/22/2007 06:09:00 AM 68 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Family-related issues

By JEFF ISRAELY/ROME TIME EuropeTuesday, Feb. 20, 2007
In recent months, Martini has raised subtle though crucial objections to the Church's steadfast opposition to all circumstances of assisted fertility, distribution of condoms for AIDS victims and so-called "right-to-die" cases. His long cover-story interview last April with the Italian magazine L'Espresso set off an internal Church debate about whether a married AIDS patient's use of a condom is the "lesser of two evils," and a Vatican document on the issue may come out later this year.
Martini has long understood that speaking softly is the best way for a dissenting voice to be heard. Most recently, in an interview published Sunday in the Rome-based daily La Repubblica, he politely challenged both Benedict and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, head of Italy's bishop conference, for their repeatedly strong condemnations of an Italian government proposal to legalize civil unions for homosexuals and heterosexuals who don't want to marry. Though no supporter of gay marriage, Martini nevertheless decided it was time to register his opposition to the Vatican's hammering away on family-related issues. "The family is the cell of society, and is therefore very important," he said. "Certainly the family should be defended and promoted.
But the promoting, I think, is more important than defending." He went on to warn against the "confrontation among the various positions that create tensions and useless and dangerous clashes." In the past, he has voiced his support for woman deacons, and even called for a Third Vatican Council to address the many issues dividing Catholics. Martini has long been a beacon for a generation of progressive bishops and cardinals, like Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who has recently pushed to have a mass for gay parishioners. Martini and his followers, in fact, have long contrasted with the future German pope.

The vast cultural differences between the ancient Jews and their contemporaries

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
Perhaps it is because I have been incubating these curious ideas for so long, but it is not even a question to me that the Jews were evolutionary agents chosen for a divine mission -- or, if they were not, they might as well have been. In the course of writing my book, many obscure books synchronistically fell into my eager coon paws at precisely the right moment, including In the Shadow of Moloch: The Sacrifice of Children and Its Impact on Western Religions by Martin Bergmann, and Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today by Sander Breiner...
One of the virtues of the book we recently discussed, Before the Dawn, is that it pulls no PC punches in chronicling just how unimaginably savage human beings were in the past...Thus, from our vantage point, the 20th century looks like a catastrophe, but from the vantage point of antiquity it was conspicuously peaceful -- even though seven out of ten European descendents of Abraham were incinerated in the process...
The devolutionary forces of the lower vertical are always visible in groups that oppose the Jews, currently Islam and the international Left. In his book, Breiner analyzes the vast cultural differences between the ancient Jews and their contemporaries -- the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese. The notion that these vast differences can be explained by "genetics" is strict nonsense. This would be the position of Wade and other orthodox Darwinians -- as if Abraham didn't sacrifice Isaac because of a random genetic mutation! Perhaps tomorrow I'll discuss further the cosmic "righteous angle" represented by the people chosen to carry out phase I of the arc of cosmic salvation. posted by Gagdad Bob at 2/21/2007 06:54:00 AM 18 comments links to this post

It's a collective experience of reconsidering bodies

Despite all the jiggling, sweating flesh on display Saturday as crowds of dancers pressed together in the first full day of carnival celebrations, Brazilians say the spectacle is not all about sex. They see it as a celebration of the body, closer in the spirit to the Olympics than the strip bar...
Brazilians say nakedness at carnival is about sensuality. Yes, sexual imagery abounds in the samba schools, and thousands of revelers dance skin-to-skin on the sidelines. But nudity carries a different connotation in Brazil than in many other countries. "Here, nakedness doesn't only lead to sexuality, it leads you to aesthetic appreciation. A woman is dancing but it's not pornographic. It's a collective experience of reconsidering bodies, like at the Olympic games," said Roberto Da Matta, a retired University of Notre Dame sociology professor and author of Carnivals, Rogues and Heroes.
Da Matta says his granddaughters watch the nearly nude samba dancers in TV ads during the run-up to carnival, grading them like judges at a gymnastic competition, or in the same way Rio's Samba parade is judged..."This is Rio de Janeiro, it's all about the beach and sun. We don't wear many clothes here at anytime during the year," Faria explains. Front page / World

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Let English bloom

State of English KANCHA ILAIAH The Times of India 21 Feb, 2007
The proposal of the Congress party to constitute the second state reorganisation commission (SRC) necessitates a larger debate. Linguistic states deserve a relook at a time when English is developing as a pan-Indian language. The rationale behind establishing a linguistic federation of Indian states is questionable. If one assumes that regional languages develop like the European languages, then the federation is likely to break, as each advanced linguistic region would like to be a nation by itself. Would India like to take the course of Europe, where many developed linguistic nations emerge and contradictions sharpen?
But Indian regional languages are not as advanced as European languages like English, French, German, Spanish and so on. In the ancient period, Sanskritic forces stilted their growth. In the late mediaeval period it was stilted by Persian. In the colonial period, English intervened. Now, there is no possibility of these languages developing to the levels of European languages. In an under-developed language system, thought processes will also remain underdeveloped. In modern knowledge societies, underdeveloped languages cannot produce advanced thought. The present Indian languages, including Hindi, were more underdeveloped than any European language of the early 18th century. The advanced linguistic nationalism of Europe sharpened contradictions, leading to nationalist wars among them, even though they all shared the same religion. The common historical roots of all the European languages, in Greek and Latin, did not prevent the emergence of such contradictions.
Once each language branches out, it develops nationalist aspirations, whipping up linguistic chauvinism. The recent chauvinist expressions that Telugu is greater than Tamil or vice versa, in order to get ancient status, is an indication of that trend. The Dravidian or Pali linguistic roots of these languages are set aside and every linguistic state wants to prove that its language is great. With English developing as a language of administration and the market in India, the country can now afford to sidestep the European model of linguistic nations.
It is important to initiate a debate on this larger question before Andhra Pradesh, the first linguistic state to be formed, is split on developmental grounds. Once this happens, the principle of underdeveloped regions within every linguistic state being divided on the same grounds as AP comes into play. Each region can put forth its own case. The only option left for us is to choose the American model of developing one national language across the federation and dividing provinces into viable administrative units. Given the historical roots of English in India over a period of a few centuries, it can become the spoken language of all Indians alongside regional languages. Linguistic history has enough evidence to show that whether one is literate or not every human being can become bilingual.
By 1510 (before the Bible was translated into English facing a great papal resistance), English was a language of the British illiterate productive masses. Within just 500 years it has become the most popular language of the world. Within 200 years of its introduction in India it has become the language of easily about 100 million people. Its expansion in future will be several fold faster than earlier. It has become a language of day-to-day use for several million upper middle classes and rich. The poor and the productive masses have a right to learn the language of administration and global communication. This ground reality forces us to accept that at least 50 per cent of the school syllabus in all govern-ment schools across the country should be taught in English. The country would then overcome the yawning gap between convent and missionary English-medium school education and regional language-centred government school education.
When educated social masses communicate in English across the country, the concept of linguistic state would become redundant. The provincial states then should be compact administrative units. This 21st century reality should compel us to have a second SRC. This should examine the very concept of continuing with language-based provincial units within integrated Indian federal system. The writer is a political scientist

Monday, February 19, 2007

Economics to sexuality in bureaucratic regulation and control

Consider what happens if one looks a little more closely at the data, and breaks up Indian bloggers by gender. Among women netizens 51 per cent are bloggers. Declining sex ratios attest that India is a land of sharp gender disparities, and women are resorting to blogging on a large scale to give vent to pent-up feelings.
India may be a democracy, but in areas ranging from economics to sexuality it is heavily invested in bureaucratic regulation and control. The culture of mai-baap sarkar gives little latitude to the individual. Babus routinely stonewall requests for information, despite being required to do so under the RTI Act. Adultery is not just an ethical transgression and homosexuality an alternative lifestyle choice; both are criminal offences. Moral crusaders in the I&B ministry can and do pull the plug on TV channels. Liberalisation notwithstanding, red tape remains rampant and India is near the bottom of the world in several business metrics. The Times of India> Editorial> 19 Feb, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

How to deal with religion in the political sphere

Islam challenges Europe view religion is private, church heads told Stephen Brown Wittenberg, Germany (ENI) 16 February 2007 07-0139
The growth of Islam in Europe is challenging deeply-held notions that faith is a private matter which should be banished from public life, a prominent sociologist of religion has told a gathering of European Christian leaders. "We ignore the presence of Islam at our peril," Professor Grace Davie of the University of Exeter in Britain told leaders from Europe's main Christian traditions at a 15-18 February meeting in Wittenberg in Germany. "This is a catalyst for a much more profound change in the religious landscape of Europe."
Recent controversies such as those about the wearing of the Muslim headscarf by school students in France, or the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers, were cases in point, noted Davie, professor of sociology at Exeter university and director of its centre for European studies. "The presence of Islam is a catalyst that has reopened issues that Europeans thought were closed," Davie said on 16 February. "You cannot privatise Islam. We have seen that." But she said Christian churches had a major task in helping to find ways to deal with such public expression of religion.
Davie was presenting the results of recent research* on the place of religion in Europe, in which she wrote about the controversy over the cartoons: "The lack of comprehension on both sides of this affair, together with an unwillingness to compromise, led alarmingly fast to dangerous confrontations, both in Europe and beyond." The notion that religion should be banished from public life - and particularly from the state and from the education system - was widespread in Europe, Davie noted. But in part due to the presence of Islam, religion was increasingly likely to penetrate the public sphere in Europe, a tendency being encouraged by the ever more obvious presence of religion in the modern global order.
However, this was "probably more of a problem for the secular elite than the Christian churches", Davie suggested in her comments in Wittenberg. She said, "We need to grasp how to deal with religion in the political sphere and here Christian churches have a huge contribution to make." * Grace Davie, "Is Europe an Exceptional Case?", in The Hedgehog Review, Spring/ Summer 2006 issue,

In some radical Islam societies, women are surviving a horrible life

Redefine Religion for Equality [Opinion] Faith-based discrimination a misinterpretation of scripture Smita Poudel (smita)
In the "Biographical Dictionary of Prominent Muslim Ladies," writers Kabir Kaushar and Inamul Kabir in the introductory part of the book write, "Islam gave women many privileges, legal rights and a high status in the society which in the 7th century AD she didn't possess anywhere in the world." The writers assert that those privileges were not given to them in the Western world until 1918, and Western women acquired those rights only after agitation and demonstration.The above-mentioned fact is a contradiction, if compared to the real situation of millions of Islam women in many parts of the world. What has led to such a pathetic situation of women despite the freedom from the religion's side? Definitely, the answer would be misinterpretation with the pure motive of male supremacy. Such radicals can in no way be called religious; rather, they are hypocritical.
It is said that during the Caliphate of Abbasid from the 8th down to 12th century, Muslim women in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, presided over literary meetings and salons, worked as jurists and lectured on history in Baghdad University. But the images of women behind the dark veil have marred the glory of that time.Women's confinement within narrow horizons in the name of religion prevents them from their quest of higher achievement. They were not allowed to study or work outside the kitchen, perhaps in the fear that their awareness would someday provoke justifications of the rules imposed upon them.
In some radical Islam societies, women are surviving a horrible life. Honor killings, the Purdah system and many other evils that are justified in the name of religion have tortured women. These people are twisting Mohammad's true meaning for the sake of their supremacy; similar is the case of radical Hindus. Now it's high time to redefine the true spirit of religion so that the dream of equality becomes a reality. Religion is the very first point from which the battle should be announced. Better than saying that Islam suppresses women or that Hinduism and Christianity undermine women's roles, one should now point the finger towards the chauvinistic interpretations that have truly created the ground for discrimination. 2007-02-17 09:35 (KST) OhmyNews Other articles by reporter Smita Poudel

Religious practices have drifted away from their philosophy » Editorial » The Big Idea » A time to heal Open space
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar February 16, 2007
Laws have failed to change the attitude of people, and contemporary religious leaders have done precious little to remove the prejudices and bring about reconciliation. In the past, Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Basavanna in Karnataka and Ramanujacharya in the South have taken up the cause of the oppressed. Ramanujacharya put tripund/tilak and gave janeu (sacred thread) to thousands of Dalits and made them Brahmins. Basavanna vigorously fought against the caste system and brought together people of all castes into the path of bhakti.
Maharishi Dayanand dented the caste system through his brilliant and eloquent dialogues and speeches. He fought against prevalent superstitions. Thanks to him, thousands of Dalits could access the knowledge of the Vedas and the yagyas. He also created many purohits from among the Dalit community...As Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Aurobindo and many others have rightly pointed out, religious practices have drifted away from their philosophy.
It is unfortunate that people without proper knowledge of the scriptures simply quote from the Manu Smriti, which is only a code of conduct given by a king and has nothing to do with the Shrutis, Vedas or the Upanishads. It is time to honour the philosophy and discard the unscrupulous practices. Instead, people have discarded the philosophy and allowed the unscrupulous practices to continue.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I am following the path of bhakti to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo

Shall We Walk on Water? (Or, About Me): Several years ago, while a freshman in college in Lahore, Pakistan, my life changed dramatically when I stopped being an orthodox Muslim woman, and became an agnostic. Religion was too limiting and the God of religion too forbidding. I figured, even if such a God existed, I despised him. I felt stronger once I had gotten rid of the shackles of exoteric religion, and my skepticism felt liberating. Later on, still in college, I came out as a lesbian and had to deal with an abusive sexual experience. In healing from this experience, I went through what is known as a psychospiritual emergency in transpersonal psychology, which culminated in a kundalini awakening. In the years that have gone by since this experience happened, I have struggled to reconcile my newfound spirituality with my love for science and philosophy. It is easy to fall for the tricks of the ego-mind, which only wants to manipulate us and to change things to suit itself. My struggle as a mystic has been to try to silence the noise of the mind, and listen carefully to the quieter desires of the soul and become more grounded in it.
This does not, however, mean that I am anti-science or an anti-intellectual. I enjoy building up cognitive maps of reality that fit in with my own experiences and those of others, but I am careful to remind myself not to take these maps too seriously. My focus is on my own spiritual transformation, not on being intellectually “right” on all counts. Truth cannot ever be adequately expressed in words. Truth can only be lived — because we can never encompass Reality, only live in it. In other words, Truth encompasses us, not the other way around, and it is only our petty egos that think they ever possess Truth. I am following the path of bhakti to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, whose philosophy I find to be very encompassing and inclusive of all others, including science. However, my devotion to them does not imply naive, cultic guru-worshipping. When I disagree with them, I gladly admit it. I merely see them as conduits to my own higher Self. Worshipping them would be just another religion, something they were both vehemently against. What is required is a healthy amount of skepticism with an openness to higher spiritual experiences.
the stumbling mystic God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep
Each stumble and fall gets me one step closer. The spirit rises mightier after it has been defeated. The purpose of this blog is for me to teach myself humility, to quieten my mind and gently strip away its arrogant mental pretensions, and learn to see things as they really are and not as I would like them to be. And, also, to perhaps see the humour in life and stop taking myself so seriously!