Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Koran: The Cow, Part 8

Sorry for the delay!  Let's finish this sura- the longest in the Koran.

[2.243] Have you not considered those who went forth from their homes, for fear of death, and they were thousands, then Allah said to them, Die; again He gave them life; most surely Allah is Gracious to people, but most people are not grateful.

I didn't realize that killing someone should make them grateful.  Hooray!  You killed me and brought me back, thanks.
[2.244] And fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
[2.245] Who is it that will offer of Allah a goodly gift, so He will multiply it to him manifold, and Allah straitens and amplifies, and you shall be returned to Him.
[2.246] Have you not considered the chiefs of the children of Israel after Musa, when they said to a prophet of theirs: Raise up for us a king, (that) we may fight in the way of Allah. He said: May it not be that you would not fight if fighting is ordained for you? They said: And what reason have we that we should not fight in the way of Allah, and we have indeed been compelled to abandon our homes and our children. But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned back, except a few of them, and Allah knows the unjust.

Why is this notion that people would readily fight for religion introduced? It seems to imply that followers cannot live up to their word, or to rile up followers to by calling them out on their own inaction.  If something is so pure as the notion of a benevolent supreme creator and leader, would he really need to utilize scare tactics and hatred?

[2.247] And their prophet said to them: Surely Allah has raised Talut to be a king over you. They said: How can he hold kingship over us while we have a greater right to kingship than he, and he has not been granted an abundance of wealth? He said: Surely Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique, and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases, and Allah is Amplegiving, Knowing.

Religion and politics, what bed fellows.
[2.248] And the prophet said to them: Surely the sign of His kingdom is, that there shall come to you the chest in which there is tranquillity from your Lord and residue of the relics of what the children of Musa and the children of Haroun have left, the angels bearing it; most surely there is a sign in this for those who believe.

Well I can't imagine anyone else would actually understand what Allah plans.
[2.249] So when Talut departed with the forces, he said: Surely Allah will try you with a river; whoever then drinks from it, he is not of me, and whoever does not taste of it, he is surely of me, except he who takes with his hand as much of it as fills the hand; but with the exception of a few of them they drank from it. So when he had crossed it, he and those who believed with him, they said: We have today no power against Jalut and his forces. Those who were sure that they would meet their Lord said: How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah's permission, and Allah is with the patient.

Talut= Saul, Jalut = Goliath.  I imagine these lines about Saul's kingship and Goliath's army would make more sense if I knew more about the Old Testament stories.  The gist of this, however, is that a small band of believers think they can vanquish their oppressors because they have Allah on their side.  
[2.250] And when they went out against Jalut and his forces they said: Our Lord, pour down upon us patience, and make our steps firm and assist us against the unbelieving people.
[2.251] So they put them to flight by Allah's permission. And Dawood slew Jalut, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. And were it not for Allah's repelling some men with others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder; but Allah is Gracious to the creatures.

And David slew Goliath!  Those that trust in the Lord will conquer over all!  Hallelujah.  Oh wait, different religion.  The last line is also pretty telling regarding the state of the earth and Allah "repelling" some men.  It seems to me that Allah has gotten pretty lazy considering the human traffickers, pedophiles, etc that still do the face of the earth.

[2.252] These are the communications of Allah: We recite them to you with truth; and most surely you are (one) of the apostles.

This is being said to Mohammad.  Surely, I am not one of the apostles.
[2.253] We have made some of these apostles to excel the others among them are they to whom Allah spoke, and some of them He exalted by (many degrees of) rank; and We gave clear miracles to Isa son of Marium, and strengthened him with the holy spirit. And if Allah had pleased, those after them would not have fought one with another after clear arguments had come to them, but they disagreed; so there were some of them who believed and others who denied; and if Allah had pleased they would not have fought one with another, but Allah brings about what He intends.

Really?  Because earlier Allah said that none of the prophets were any better than the others.  Now we are being told that he exalted some more than others.  Clearly Jesus did miracles and was strengthened by the holy spirit. 

[2.254] O you who believe! spend out of what We have given you before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, neither any friendship nor intercession, and the unbelievers-- they are the unjust.

How random is this?  Seriously... Give to charity...the unbelievers are unjust.  No reason, just unjust cause I said so.  Cause they don't believe me.  But yeah, give to charity.
[2.255] Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Everliving, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot comprehend anything out of His knowledge except what He pleases, His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not, and He is the Most High, the Great.

Can you just see Allah, or Gabriel as it were, giving this information to Mohammad?  Mohammad wasn't writing it done, he was memorizing it.  I imagine he had to repeat it a great many times to get it fixed in his memory just right, Gabriel leaning over his shoulder correcting him and spewing on about the greatness of Allah, a god that does not tire of telling his believers how great he is.
[2.256] There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
[2.257] Allah is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light; and (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Shaitans who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.

There is no compulsion in religion... just fear-mongering and hatred.

[2.258] Have you not considered him (Namrud) who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said: My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die, he said: I give life and cause death. Ibrahim said: So surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west; thus he who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide aright the unjust people.
[2.259] Or the like of him (Uzair) who passed by a town, and it had fallen down upon its roofs; he said: When will Allah give it life after its death? So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him to life. He said: How long have you tarried? He said: I have tarried a day, or a part of a day. Said He: Nay! you have tarried a hundred years; then look at your food and drink-- years have not passed over it; and look at your ass; and that We may make you a sign to men, and look at the bones, how We set them together, then clothed them with flesh; so when it became clear to him, he said: I know that Allah has power over all things.

Religion and faith are also the main peddlers of BS and anti-scientific rhetoric.
[2.260] And when Ibrahim said: My Lord! show me how Thou givest life to the dead, He said: What! and do you not believe? He said: Yes, but that my heart may be at ease. He said: Then take four of the birds, then train them to follow you, then place on every mountain a part of them, then call them, they will come to you flying; and know that Allah is Mighty, Wise.

I imagine his time would have been better spent populating the earth or taking care of the many animals he amassed through dishonesty.
[2.261] The parable of those who spend their property in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears (with) a hundred grains in every ear; and Allah multiplies for whom He pleases; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing

What does this imply for believers who are downtrodden?
[2.262] (As for) those who spend their property in the way.of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.

Ah yes, they shall receive their reward later.  When they are dead.  Good luck with that.
[2.263] Kind speech and forgiveness is better than charity followed by injury; and Allah is Self-sufficient, Forbearing.

Ok, no disagreement here.
[2.264] O you who believe! do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to be seen of men and does not believe in Allah and the last day; so his parable is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare; they shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.
[2.265] And the parable of those who spend their property to seek the pleasure of Allah and for the certainty 'of their souls is as the parable of a garden on an elevated ground, upon which heavy rain falls so it brings forth its fruit twofold but if heavy rain does not fall upon it, then light rain (is sufficient); and Allah sees what you do.

This idea comes from the bible: if you are giving, if you are fasting, etc, it is between you and God and no one need know about it. 

[2.266] Does one of you like that he should have a garden of palms and vines with streams flowing beneath it; he has in it all kinds of fruits; and old age has overtaken him and he has weak offspring, when, (lo!) a whirlwind with fire in it smites it so it becomes blasted; thus Allah makes the communications clear to you, that you may reflect.

Wow, that was so clear.  I totally get it. 

[2.267] O you who believe! spend (benevolently) of the good things that you earn and or what We have brought forth for you out of the earth, and do not aim at what is bad that you may spend (in alms) of it, while you would not take it yourselves unless you have its price lowered, and know that Allah is Self-sufficient, Praiseworthy.

Though this supposedly speaks of charity, it really seems to speak to a spendthrift attitude.
[2.268] Shaitan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.
[2.269] He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good and none but men of understanding mind.
[2.270] And whatever alms you give or (whatever) vow you vow, surely Allah knows it; and the unjust shall have no helpers.
[2.271] If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you; and this will do away with some of your evil deeds; and Allah is aware of what you do.

So you can buy repentance by giving to charity?
[2.272] To make them walk in the right way is not incumbent on you, but Allah guides aright whom He pleases; and whatever good thing you spend, it is to your own good; and you do not spend but to seek Allah's pleasure; and whatever good things you spend shall be paid back to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.
[2.273] (Alms are) for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah-- they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of (their) abstaining (from begging); you can recognise them by their mark; they do not beg from men importunately; and whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah knows it.
[2.274] (As for) those who spend their property by night and by day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward from their Lord and they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
[2.275] Those who swallow down usury cannot arise except as one whom Shaitan has prostrated by (his) touch does rise. That is because they say, trading is only like usury; and Allah has allowed trading and forbidden usury. To whomsoever then the admonition has come from his Lord, then he desists, he shall have what has already passed, and his affair is in the hands of Allah; and whoever returns (to it)-- these arc the inmates of the fire; they shall abide in it.
[2.276] Allah does not bless usury, and He causes charitable deeds to prosper, and Allah does not love any ungrateful sinner.

I feel like Mohammad must have gotten burned by a high interest loan or something.  
[2.277] Surely they who believe and do good deeds and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
[2.278] O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and relinquish what remains (due) from usury, if you are believers.
[2.279] But if you do (it) not, then be apprised of war from Allah and His Apostle; and if you repent, then you shall have your capital; neither shall you make (the debtor) suffer loss, nor shall you be made to suffer loss.

Yeah, really burned.  
[2.280] And if (the debtor) is in straitness, then let there be postponement until (he is in) ease; and that you remit (it) as alms is better for you, if you knew.
[2.281] And guard yourselves against a day in which you shall be returned to Allah; then every soul shall be paid back in full what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.

By the way, jerk who gave me the bad loan, you are going to hell! My new God said so!
[2.282] O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.

Should Allah really be wasting his time with this?  
[2.283] And if you are upon a journey and you do not find a scribe, then (there may be) a security taken into possession; but if one of you trusts another, then he who is trusted should deliver his trust, and let him be careful (of his duty to) Allah, his Lord; and do not conceal testimony, and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do.

Way too much specificity on loans.  I think this shows Mohammad's own weakness, just as the orphan bits did.
[2.284] Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah's; and whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it; then He will forgive whom He pleases and chastise whom He pleases, and Allah has power over all things.

Yes, yes, you have complete dominion and can punish whom you please.
[2.285] The apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles; We make no difference between any of His apostles; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course.

Of course Mohammad is a believer.
[2.286] Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability; for it is (the benefit of) what it has earned and upon it (the evil of) what it has wrought: Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us, Our Lord do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us, Thou art our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people.

Why is there such a focus on unbelievers?  The Koran vilifies them, calls them oppressors, sanctions their murders, and sends them to hell.  It goes so far beyond the idea that if one leads a good life one will go to heaven.  It locks children into a cycle of belief, fear, and hatred.  It justifies misogyny. It creates such a regimented view of what a believer should be and do, while still remaining vague.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Understanding the Koran

I'm a bit overwhelmed with life right now, so here is an article from Bill Warner on Understanding the Koran. Hopefully I will have the last edition of the Cow up on Monday.

Genesis 14

Genesis Chapter 14

1And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
2[That these] made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.
3All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
4Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that [were] with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
6And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which [is] by the wilderness.
7And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which [is] Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.
8And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same [is] Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10And the vale of Siddim [was full of] slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
11And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

War ensues in the area which Lot has chosen to call home and all his goods are taken.  He is also captured.
13And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these [were] confederate with Abram.
14And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained [servants], born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued [them] unto Dan.

Wow!  That is a lot of "servants."  I imagine that is a euphemism for slaves. I also imagine they had no choice in the decision to attempt to save Lot.

15And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which [is] on the left hand of Damascus.
16And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that [were] with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which [is] the king's dale.
18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he [was] the priest of the most high God.
19And he blessed him, and said, Blessed [be] Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

So God's reputation has gotten around.  Who did the spreading?  Is God cheating on his prophets with other prophets? 
21And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23That I will not [take] from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that [is] thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Genesis 13

The Promised Land...

Genesis Chapter 13

1And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
2And Abram [was] very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
"Cheaters never prosper," unless God loves them.
3And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
4Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Back to the promised land.
5And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.
6And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.
7And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.
8And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we [be] brethren.
9[Is] not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if [thou wilt take] the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if [thou depart] to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
10And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it [was] well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, [even] as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

How anticlimatic!  Now we know that he destroys Sodom and Gomorrah...jeesh. 
11Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
12Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched [his] tent toward Sodom.
13But the men of Sodom [were] wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

Was the Lord even talking to them?  It seems he likes to keep it to one person at a time.
14And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

And yet, he forgot the deed.
16And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, [then] shall thy seed also be numbered.
17Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
18Then Abram removed [his] tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which [is] in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

So Abraham is not preaching, just supposedly being spoken to.  He isn't spreading the love of God, there is no bible, nothing.  Why is he favored?  So far he seems pretty worthless.  He is a pretty underwhelming man to have for the base of 3 religions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Genesis 12

Sarai and Abram travel to Egypt.

Genesis Chapter 12

1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

And Abraham had noooo reason to create this story and pass it around the block.
4So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
6And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite [was] then in the land.
7And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Hey everyone, the magical voice that talks only to me said this land is mine.
8And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
9And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
10And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land.

What?  Was the land God gave him not good enough?  Is it a better story if he moves into a Egypt and the Jews are enslaved? 
11And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon:
12Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.

He didn't have faith that God would protect him from evil-doers?  
13Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair.
15The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

And Abram has no issue with this.
16And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

Because he was paid kindly.
17And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

Ah, but someone takes issue!
18And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What [is] this [that] thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she [was] thy wife?
19Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way.
20And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

So, God punishes Pharaoh for believing Abram, however Abram is rewarded for lying by gaining in wealth.  That doesn't seem like a good moral to pass along.  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Koran: The Cow, Part 7

Two more parts to go!  Woo-hoo!  We left off with some info about the pilgrimage, this part starts with an ayah concerning it as well.

[2.203] And laud Allah during the numbered days; then whoever hastens off in two days, there is no blame on him, and whoever remains behind, there is no blame on him, (this is) for him who guards (against evil), and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, and know that you shall be gathered together to Him.

[2.204] And among men is he whose speech about the life of this world causes you to wonder, and he calls on Allah to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the most violent of adversaries.
[2.205] And when he turn,s back, he runs along in the land that he may cause mischief in it and destroy the tilth and the stock, and Allah does not love mischief-making.
[2.206] And when it is said to him, guard against (the punish ment of) Allah; pride carries him off to sin, therefore hell is sufficient for him; and certainly it is an evil resting place.

A warning to believers to not get caught up by those who may use the name of Allah for their own purposes.  Such a person will go to hell (of course).
[2.207] And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Affectionate to the servants.

What a kind master, Allah!  I appreciate the wording of this translation: "he who sells himself." It is true that he who follows Allah probably doesn't know himself and has given up on some level of rational thinking.  Another translation is: "he who would give away his life."  This ayah may be referring to martyrdom.
[2.208] O you who believe! enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitan; surely he is your open enemy.

Watch out!  Even though Allah knows all and created all, he will test you and threaten you with Satan.  So kind.  

The following two ayahs are not interpreted with the previous one.  I fell that if you read them together it seems that they refer to the trickery of Satan, however according to's translation they are for apostates.

[2.209] But if you slip after clear arguments have come to you, then know that Allah is Mighty, Wise.
[2.210] They do not wait aught but that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds along with the angels, and the matter has (already) been decided; and (all) matters are returned to Allah.

It's humorous to think that if one were Muslim they would interpret the "clear arguments" as arguments for Allah.  If such a "clear argument" exists in the Koran, it will in fact be a miracle.  

So basically, if you stop believing (even after all those amazing lucid arguments for the existence and omnipotence of Allah), well know that he is wise and that he already decided that you would stop believing.  I'm actually surprised that hell isn't mentioned here.  
[2.211] Ask the Israelites how many a clear sign have We given them; and whoever changes the favor of Allah after it has come to him, then surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).

Spoke too soon!  
[2.212] The life of this world is made to seem fair to those who disbelieve, and they mock those who believe, and those who guard (against evil) shall be above them on the day of resurrection; and Allah gives means of subsistence to whom he pleases without measure.

Here the term fair does not denote some idea of justice, but more of an aesthetic.  I admit that the universe does seem a fair place.  It is majestic and amazing- and achieves it's awesomeness without any kind of magic or duplicitous interference by pesky deities.  Ah, but only a disbeliever would think such a thing and those believers will go to heaven for pleasing Allah while I burn with my fellow "disbelievers." 

[2.213] (All) people are a single nation; so Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners, and He revealed with them the Book with truth, that it might judge between people in that in which they differed; and none but the very people who were given it differed about it after clear arguments had come to them, revolting among themselves; so Allah has guided by His will those who believe to the truth about which they differed and Allah guides whom He pleases to the right path.

So the purpose of the Bible is to be divisive and decide who is bad and good?  Of course those Jews and Christians didn't get "it."  Let's blame them for their misinterpretations even though Allah didn't guide them to "the right path."
[2.214] Or do you think that you would enter the garden while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Apostle and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!

Oh, the trials and tribulations will be many because Allah will test us all.  Only then will he know whether we truly believe, even though He has told us repeatedly that He is all knowing and all seeing and the creator of the disbelievers. Oh, Allah, you are a paradox wrapped in a mystery.
[2.215] They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it.
[2.216] Fighting is enjoined on you, and h is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.
The like how the last segment of the second ayah states " and Allah knows, while you do not know."  Ain't that the truth?  Isn't it always that "God knows best" and "it's in God's hands."  And we can't forget, "God willing."  Us poor humans are not responsible for ourselves!  We are at the mercy of some paternalistic patron who will decide our fates.  Praise him and give him your money.
[2.217] They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering (men) from Allah's way and denying Him, and (hindering men from) the Sacred Mosque and turning its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver than slaughter; and they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever-- these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide.

Persecution is greater than slaughter?  Providing a hindrance to the path to Allah is a greater sin than killing someone?  Really?  Allah (Mohammad?) really has it all worked out.  He created a religion in which it is completely normal to be paranoid that people are working against your eternal reward.  He made persecution of Muslims a graver sin than killing in his name.  What a guy. 

[2.218] Surely those who believed and those who fled (their home) and strove hard in the way of Allah these hope for the mercy of Allah and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Of course.

[2.219] They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder

Drinking and gambling is not permitted.  Me, I like my wine more than any deity.  Maybe I should follow Jesus, since he was all about turning water to wine.  That's something I can get behind.  
[2.220] On this world and the hereafter. And they ask you concerning the orphans Say: To set right for them (their affairs) is good, and if you become co-partners with them, they are your brethren; and Allah knows the mischief-maker and the pacemaker, and if Allah had pleased, He would certainly have caused you to fall into a difficulty; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.

Allah enjoys telling Mohammad about that which he will be questioned upon.  Who thinks "Oh, but what about the orphans?" when they are considering a new faith?  I understand questions regarding previous religious beliefs and the tenets of Islam in general, but the importance of orphans in the Koran is peculiar.  The question that popped into my mind after this was "What gives?  Was Mohammad an orphan or something?"  And lo and behold, he was!  Amazing how Allah was able to "reveal" to Mohammad something so dear to his heart...

[2.221] And do not marry the idolatresses until they believe, and certainly a believing maid is better than an idolatress woman, even though she should please you; and do not give (believing women) in marriage to idolaters until they believe, and certainly a believing servant is better than an idolater, even though he should please you; these invite to the fire, and Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness by His will, and makes clear His communications to men, that they may be mindful.

Surround yourself with believers, those others will lead you to hell.  Sounds pretty cult-ish to me. 

[2.222] And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a discomfort; therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge and do not go near them until they have become clean; then when they have cleansed themselves, go in to them as Allah has commanded you; surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him), and He loves those who purify themselves.

After the first line I thought, oh great, a question supposedly posed by the women.  HA!  What was I thinking?  Of course it is posed from the viewpoint of men.  Men know so much about these matters.  

[2.223] Your wives are a tilth for you, so go into your tilth when you like, and do good beforehand for yourselves, and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, and know that you will meet Him, and give good news to the believers.

I am finding it more ridiculous that Islam is sometimes said to be a religion that sees women as equals to men.  No religion that views women as dirty during menstruation and as a tilling ground for children will ever treat women as equals. 

[2.224] And make not Allah because of your swearing (by Him) an obstacle to your doing good and guarding (against evil) and making peace between men, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
[2.225] Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He will call you to account for what your hearts have earned, and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing.

So Allah won't hold you to your promises, however he will hold you to whatever is in your heart.  And in that way, he is forgiving.  And backward.

[2.226] Those who swear that they will not go in to their wives should wait four months; so if they go back, then Allah is surely Forgiving, Merciful.
[2.227] And if they have resolved on a divorce, then Allah is surely Hearing, Knowing.

Does this actually say anything?  Allah is forgiving if you give up on divorce but he knows if you don't?  Come on, Allah, give us the consequences.  Don't leave us hanging.
[2.228] And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation; and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty, Wise.

So women have to be good and seeming virtuous after a divorce, in case their husbands want them back.  Once again, Allah shows that the misogynistic apple doesn't fall far from the Abrahamic tree. Those that state that the Koran advocates for equality between the sexes either have a skewed view of what equality means or have never actually read the Koran. 
[2.229] Divorce may be (pronounced) twice, then keep (them) in good fellowship or let (them) go with kindness; and it is not lawful for you to take any part of what you have given them, unless both fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah; then if you fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah, there is no blame on them for what she gives up to become free thereby. These are the limits of Allah, so do not exceed them and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah these it is that are the unjust.

One should not take back a gift given to the former spouse, unless it will somehow make you sin against Allah to not do so.  Then, whatever, because Allah forgives.

[2.230] So if he divorces her she shall not be lawful to him afterwards until she marries another husband; then if he divorces her there is no blame on them both if they return to each other (by marriage), if they think that they can keep within the limits of Allah, and these are the limits of Allah which He makes clear for a people who know.

Now we are getting ridiculous.  Was Mohammad considering divorce?  Why so much exposition on it?  The Koran seems to highlight such bizarre minutiae regarding divorce. 
[2.231] And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then either retain them in good fellowship or set them free with liberality, and do not retain them for injury, so that you exceed the limits, and whoever does this, he indeed is unjust to his own soul; and do not take Allah's communications for a mockery, and remember the favor of Allah upon you, and that which He has revealed to you of the Book and the Wisdom, admonishing you thereby; and be careful (of your duty to) Allah, and know that Allah is the Knower of all things.

So take care of a woman who is past her prime or let her go.  Why even state this if either option is fine? Of course, anytime is a good time to remind the faithful of the greatness of Allah.
[2.232] And when you have divorced women and they have ended-- their term (of waiting), then do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree among themselves in a lawful manner; with this is admonished he among you who believes in Allah and the last day, this is more profitable and purer for you; and Allah knows while you do not know.

Yeah, I'm tired of divorce.
[2.233] And the mothers should suckle their children for two whole years for him who desires to make complete the time of suckling; and their maintenance and their clothing must be-- borne by the father according to usage; no soul shall have imposed upon it a duty but to the extent of its capacity; neither shall a mother be made to suffer harm on account of her child, nor a father on account of his child, and a similar duty (devolves) on the (father's) heir, but if both desire weaning by mutual consent and counsel, there is no blame on them, and if you wish to engage a wet-nurse for your children, there is no blame on you so long as you pay what you promised for according to usage; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah and know that Allah sees what you do.

Breastfeeding is not a choice of the woman, but a choice by the woman and man. It can only be stopped when they both decide or at the end of two years.  I highly doubt that American Muslims follow this ayah, considering the low rates of breastfeeding the US.
[2.234] And (as for) those of you who die and leave wives behind, they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days; then when they have fully attained their term, there is no blame on you for what they do for themselves in a lawful manner; and Allah is aware of what you do.

All of the divorce ayahs and now this one too, are obviously speaking only to males.  It concerns itself only with the salvation of the male partner.
[2.235] And there is no blame on you respecting that which you speak indirectly in the asking of (such) women in marriage or keep (the proposal) concealed within your minds; Allah knows that you win mention them, but do not give them a promise in secret unless you speak in a lawful manner, and do not confirm the marriage tie until the writing is fulfilled, and know that Allah knows what is in your minds, therefore beware of Him, and know that Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing.

Pretty much, as a man, do what you want.  As a woman, follow my rules!

[2.236] There is no blame on you if you divorce women when you have not touched them or appointed for them a portion, and make provision for them, the wealthy according to his means and the straitened in circumstances according to his means, a provision according to usage; (this is) a duty on the doers of good (to others).
[2.237] And if you divorce them before you have touched them and you have appointed for them a portion, then (pay to them) half of what you have appointed, unless they relinquish or he should relinquish in whose hand is the marriage tie; and it is nearer to righteousness that you should relinquish; and do not neglect the giving of free gifts between you; surely Allah sees what you do.

More divorce, now complete with alimony!
[2.238] Attend constantly to prayers and to the middle prayer and stand up truly obedient to Allah.
[2.239] But if you are in danger, then (say your prayers) on foot or on horseback; and when you are secure, then remember Allah, as. He has taught you what you did not know.

Just pray all the time. Allah feels lonely if you don't.  Think of him as your mother.  You never pray to me anymore...
[2.240] And those of you who die and leave wives behind, (make) a bequest in favor of their wives of maintenance for a year without turning (them) out, then if they themselves go away, there is no blame on you for what they do of lawful deeds by themselves, and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
[2.241] And for the divorced women (too) provision (must be made) according to usage; (this is) a duty on those who guard (against evil).

Take care of the women, they can't take care of themselves.
[2.242] Allah thus makes clear to you His communications that you may understand.

That Allah, always the jokester.   Clear communications!  Ha!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Genesis 11

Genesis 10 gives a geneology of the sons of Noah, which I've skipped.  Moving along to Chapter 11.

Genesis Chapter 11

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

That makes sense since everyone is related.
2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

Why are they building a tower?  It seems they have foreshadowed their own scattering though.  It is interesting that the Lord came down to see the city.  Couldn't he see it from his vantage point?  Didn't he know what the people were doing?
6And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Aw man, they are getting too powerful!  
7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

Because they won't be able to figure out how to understand each other.
8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

And know we have the biblical explanation for the origin of multiple languages and different "tribes" across the face of the Earth.  The Lord, he hath confounded us!  What follows is more genealogy that leads us to Abraham and Lot... dum dum dum...
10These [are] the generations of Shem: Shem [was] an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
12And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
13And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
14And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
15And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
16And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
17And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.
18And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
19And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
20And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
21And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
22And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
23And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
24And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
25And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
26And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27Now these [are] the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
29And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife [was] Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
30But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child.
31And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Heaven

The Washington Post's On Faith Blogs featured a question regarding "Heaven" in late March. 

What (or where, or why) is heaven?  What is your vision of heaven? What images - from Scripture, tradition, culture or your personal experience - best describe heaven for you?

Of course, the question presupposes that there exists somewhere in this world, or some realm of some world, a place called Heaven.  The responses are quite interesting, as well as the comments left for panelists.

Mark Driscoll starts his piece by stating that "everyone believes in a heaven."  He almost lost me with that generalization.  His point, however, is that we all have idealized images of what we would like the world to be.  I can accept that idea.  I know I have wished for less poverty and more peace, among other things.  Winning the lottery would be kind of nice as well.  Driscoll continues by attributing this need to idealize to the fact that we were all kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  He obviously writes from and for his limited christian understanding, detailing the "tragedy" of being banished from Eden and the coming Metropolis of Heaven he says is referred to by Revelations. 

John Mark Reynolds starts his piece, entitled "Just Once to See and Hear Jesus" by writing about writing in a way that only a philosopher can.  I might have found it beautiful had it been part of some novel, however once he starts discussing one "Word" that is true, etc, it becomes clear that he is philosophizing his ideas and wrapping them up in literary cloaks so that one cannot see how ridiculous they truly are. 

"I will see. What will I see? God, of course, but God is a very big Person and my eyes, even in Heaven, are very small. In Heaven, I will see God through Jesus, the God-man. He is not just an image of God, an icon, but Very God and looking at Him in His human nature will lead me to as much of God as men can see. "

I especially enjoy the term "God-man."  It reminds me of the phrase "man-child." Quite apropos considering the magic one would have to believe in to agree with Reynold's piece.

Julia Neuberger discusses the idea of heaven on Earth in a quick post.  She states:

For me, Heaven is not out there. it is not beyond the sea, above or beyond us, but the capacity for Heaven lies within us-- the good life, making a difference to others, a sense of the transcendent, a moment of pure joy.  

I found this a more respectable notion of heaven than those where heaven is seen as a physical place.

Ramdas Lamb begins his piece, entitled "Heaven is Overrated" with the following paragraph:

Heaven, hell, and the afterlife are totally theoretical and any belief in them is based solely on faith. No one can affirm their existence, as no one can prove their non-existence. Practically speaking, then, any belief in the them is only relevant to the extent that it affects the way we live our lives here and now. 

Lamb was a Hindu monk before he became a professor.  His piece is especially interesting because it comes from a perspective that isn't often represented in American religious circles.  It is also a breath of fresh air in comparison to the heavily represented Christian views on the topic.  Regardless, there is one Christian view I want to highlight: that of Jim Daly.

Jim Daly is the President and CEO of Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group.    Of course, as an evangelical, Mr. Daly has a personal relationship with God.  He tells a little about it here:

I believe what I believe about heaven not only because of what I've read in the Old and New Testaments, but because I have met the one man who has been there and back -- my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ. His words, actions and yes, His promises, have left me with a great spirit of peace amid the rising chaos and challenges associated with life here on earth. 
I still find it amazing that people can talk of "meeting Jesus" and "talking to God" without others thinking they are bit crazy.  Regardless, Mr. Daly has it on personal confidence what heaven is like.  I imagine the hatred spewed by Focus on the Family regarding issues like abortion and homosexuality will have no effect on his gaining admittance.

Karen Armstrong, a former nun, makes an interesting point in her piece:

I personally think it best not to try to imagine what we call 'heaven', because it can only be some kind of projection or wish-fulfillment. We can become so fixated on 'getting into heaven' that all our good deeds become purely selfish - as irreligious as paying into a retirement annuity for a comfortable life in the hereafter. Religion is supposed to be about the loss of ego - not fantasies about its eternal survival in optimum conditions.

I think she makes a succinct point regarding heaven.  I don't think I've ever heard a believer consider that heaven would be a disappointment or boring.  It is always wonderful in some fashion, and particularly in the fashion that they would like it to be.  While Armstrong points out that religion is "supposed to be about the loss of ego" I would argue the opposite.  Most religious are precisely about ego.  To create a god in man's image is ego.  To envision a paradise of eternal life, basically the life of the imagined god, as a reward for man is ego.  I think this is especially obvious in the evangelical mode of thought.  It is ego to think that there is some almighty creator that cares about you so much that he listens to all your prayers and even has a personal relationship with you. I could go on, but I'll save it for the bible dissection.

Here's a paragraph from Paula Kirby's piece to end with.  I recommend you read her entire post.

I am always slightly taken aback when the religious cite heaven as a reason to believe. Quite apart from the illogicality of believing in something just because you would like it to be true, an afterlife is such a transparently preposterous notion. Even the most devout believer in an afterlife has no difficulty accepting that death is precisely what it seems to be - The End - for every other species that has ever lived. In the case of everything from an amoeba to a dandelion to a wasp to a dolphin, these believers accept that death is death, and that's it. But somehow, according to them, for humans it isn't the end, even though we witness precisely the same processes of dying and decomposition in humans as we do in, say, pygmy marmosets, and even though there is not the slightest evidence to suggest that any part of human existence or experience will not ultimately be traced to purely material - and mortal - processes.