Beyond Belief – Weirdness in Religion

First up, a UK judge has spoken out to say children should be allowed to take knives to school. Not all children mind you, just Sikh children. Justice Mota Singh, a Sikh himself, is talking about the kirpan, a ceremonial three-inch knife worn as a show of faith by devout Sikhs, the wearing of which by one boy was banned by a North London school earlier this year. Singh later supported the boy's family's decision to withdraw him rather than accept their compromise offer that he carry a 'disabled' equivalent claiming the school's refusal was discriminatory (BBC News).

Meanwhile another UK court last week ruled that particularly pious Hindu Davender Kumar Ghai can have the open-air cremation he fervently desires. It's been a long battle for Ghai, who found his proposal to site traditional funeral pyres on land outside Newcastle blocked by the city council in a decision later upheld by England's High Court. Now the UK Court of Appeal has said that the open-air ceremonies can go ahead, and that the requirement that all cremations occur 'within a building' could be met by any reasonable structure and did not dictate that structure have walls or a roof. Davenda Kumar Ghai, who is 76 and in poor health, can now go ahead and build his roofless crematorium, once he gets planning permission to do so, from Newcastle City Council (Times).

And in yet another landmark decision, the councillors in Reading, England have given the local Muslim community permission to carry out their own burials in the borough's cemeteries at weekends, which council gravediggers do not work. Many Islamic traditions favour burial very soon after death, and the delays caused by the weekend closures was cited as a significant cause of stress for relatives. In response, the council have agreed to dig some graves beforehand for later use in a pilot scheme expected to last one year, or until the first Saturday night drunk falls in one and sues (GetReading).

Mind you, even once you're in the ground you're not always safe. A row over the siting of a new museum on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalen has boiled over this week with families who claim to have relatives buried there petitioning the UN. The cemetery, which dates back several hundred years, is due to be excavated to make was for a new “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” being built by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who dispute the families' claims. “The Museum of Tolerance project is not being built on the Mamilla Cemetery. It is being built on Jerusalem’s former municipal car park, where every day for nearly half a century, thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews parked their cars without any protest whatsoever from the Muslim community,” said founder Rabbi Marvin Hier (Telegraph).

With four religions down, let's turn now to Buddhism and Kansho Tagai, a monk at the 400 year-old Tokyo temple has started delivering his message in rap, under the name MC Happiness. Tagai claims to have been inspired by rap in English, which he says he enjoys despite not knowing a word of the language (KSDK).

But if you think that Buddhist rap is just a fad, and you're a Christian, then perhaps you need reminding of the beam in your own eye? Rick Warren seems to think so. In an interview the pastor of 30 years bemoaned the many fads and techniques that he claims diverted churches and ministers from Christ, essentially leaving them “spiritually rootless” (Christianity Today). And he may have a point, in a recent survey one third of Presbyterians said they believed there might be other paths to salvation besides Christ, despite the opposite being a central tenet of that church's beliefs (USA Today).

But whatever god or gods you believe in, the majority of the world's population don't, so it is ever so slightly weird that one of the least acceptable beliefs is to not believe in any god. So when unabashed atheist Cecil Bothwell won a seat on the city council in Asheville, North Carolina, his opponents weren't content to leave the matter with the will of the voters, citing an 1868 provision of the NC constitution that bars unbelievers from office. This despite such religious tests being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1961 (AlterNet). Meanwhile in the UK, atheist politico and favourite of Hillary Clinton, David Miliband, has been getting some stick from the the press for sending his adopted son to a religious school. Miliband, who is married to a Lutheran, was one of only two UK ministers to openly state their lack of belief in the wake of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism on leaving office (Daily Mail).

Finally, some recent scientific results may have brought us a step closer to the source of some people's deepest spiritual beliefs. No not God, brain damage. Dr. Urgesi of Udine University in Italy looked at a personality trait called “self-transcendence” in people about to undergo brain surgery, and by comparing it with measures of the same trait taken afterwards has discovered that selective damage to the posterior parietal regions of the brain dramatically increased a subject's spirituality. Supporters of the work believe it may even lead to new treatments for certain mental illnesses, which is a brave thing to say in a predominantly Catholic country (Science Daily).

Extra: Surely brain damage is the only explanation in the case of the presenter on UK Christian channel "Genesis TV" who was tricked into reading out two successive spoof testimonials. The first was nothing more than a slight rewording of the opening rap from the comedy show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but on realising this the presenter quickly moved on only to later read out another testimonial from a young man who had been inspired by one "Ben Kenobi" and had hence come to know "the force" of spirituality (Telegraph).

Image: Tom Curtis /
     Posted By: Dumbfounded - Sun Feb 14, 2010
     Category: Ceremonies | Customs | Death | Government | Regulations | Law | Judges | Philosophy | Religion

Judge Singh Wouldn't it actually be discriminatory to ban someone from carrying a knife because they were not a Sikh? Or am I missing something? 😖
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/14/10 at 08:31 PM
knives- absolutely right dumbfounded. hey, maybe hunting before school is part of tha kid from last week's religion and therefore he should be allowed to bring his gun to school.

predug graves- i'm sure the gravediggers union won't allow anyone else to dig the graves or the workers to work on the weekend so an open hole for people to fall in is the best solution.

parking lot/graveyard- if nobody had a problem with the parking lot why are they freaking now?

rapping monk- beig a religious man, if he could understand the words he wouldn't like it anymore.

religious fads- salvation without christ? i once heard there was a jewish sect that believes in jesus, so that's no stranger.

atheists- freedom of religion includes freedom FROM religion as well. if these people are voted in then they should get to serve.
great post sweetie!
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/14/10 at 09:39 PM
I wonder, if, with the snap of my fingers I could remove all religions from the world (not belief just the institutions) if 99% of all the world's problems would just vanish.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/14/10 at 11:55 PM
Works for me!
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/15/10 at 09:49 AM
Jessica Alba has said that she won't ever strip off for a movie because of her Catholic upbringing (Female First).

Proof enough for me that there isn't a god. At least, not a benevolent one. :down:
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/15/10 at 11:20 AM
I have just noticed I actually left out my favourite "beyond belief" story while rushing to put this post up. Fixed.
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/15/10 at 12:05 PM
that makes the complaints more understandable then rob.
catholic guilt has been spoiling fun for centuries honey.
most born agains have no sense of humor and consequently wouldn't recognise a joke if it ran up and bit them in the ass.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/15/10 at 03:41 PM
I decided to be as neutral as possible on this post, so didn't pass judgement on the merits of either side's claims, but it certainly does look like this is not a new issue, just a new chapter in an old one.

Mind you, I appreciate the point made in the article that just about everywhere you dig in Jerusalem you hit something historic or sacred to one or other Abrahamic religion. But when you consider how strongly Jewish communities object to interference with or vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, I might have hoped for a bit more understanding than appears to have been displayed.
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/15/10 at 06:04 PM
Sadly, my attempt to be "fair and balanced" ended up a FoxNews-level farrago when I couldn't find any really funny or weird atheists. Boring ones were to be found a plenty, but nothing particularly struck me as demanding of inclusion. Being an atheist myself I can't help but feel that the "atheist being persecuted"/"atheist practises freedom of belief" duo very much smacks of favouritism.

I almost chose "Atheists As Ethical as Churchgoers" and "The Atheist 10 Commandments" (you can see how that'd work, atheists -> churchgoers -> commandments), so perhaps I shouldn't be wringing my hands like Uriah Heap over this.

But damn it I'm disappointed. Come on atheists, are we dull to a man? Someone please stop letting the side down and do something to let the side down!

Bonus: Religious jokes (The Standard).
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/15/10 at 06:18 PM
a number of atheists are posters here (including you sweetie) and none of you are the least bit dull. 😊
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/15/10 at 09:24 PM
More religious jokes.
A church helper answered the phone one day and the man on the other line said "Let me speak to the head hog!"

"Really," objected the woman, "that is no way to talk about a man of the cloth!"

"Let me speak to the head hog," the man repeated, "I want to donate $100 thousand to the church fund."

"Give me a second," said the woman, "and I'll see if the fat pig is busy."
A Baptist, a Catholic and an atheist go fishing together. But they've no sooner taken the boat out to the middle of the lake when the Baptist cries out "Darn, I've left the bait onshore!"

Quick as a wink he hops out of the boat and carefully walks across the water to the shore, returning with the bait the same way. But just as he sits down the Catholic jumps up, smacking his forehead and exclaims "By the saints, I've left our lunches in the trunk of the car!"

Just like the Baptist, he jumps out of the boat and walks to the car and back. The Catholic is not even in his seat when the atheist jumps up and yells "If you can damn well do it, so can I," and proceeds to step out of the boat onto the water, where he sinks like a stone.

At this point the Baptist turns to the Catholic and says "Should we have told him where the rocks are?"
Posted by Dumbfounded on 02/16/10 at 12:36 PM
the second one is the funniest! :lol:
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/16/10 at 03:50 PM
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