Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nonsectarian prayer is a fantasy; we do not all worship the same god


Jewish date:  5 Kislew 5770 (Parasheth Wayyeṣe’).

Today’s holidays:  Saint Day of Christ the King (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Take Action: Ask for renewable energy that keeps wildlands and wildlife safe”.

Topic 1:  “Birth of New Species Witnessed by Scientists”.  Creationists, pay attention:  evolution happens in real time, even within a human lifetime.

Topic 2:  “Jesus vs. Allah”.  This article discusses and rightly criticizes the notion of “nonsectarian prayer”.  “Nonsectarian prayer” is an attempt to get around the constitutional prohibition of the government favoring any particular religion in order to have a government-sponsored prayer at a governmental function.  The problem is that there is no single god worshipped by everyone.  No one is going to accept a prayer addressed “to Whom it may concern”, and no name for any deity is going to be acceptable to everyone.  Every name carries with it connotations.  For example, “Allah”, suggested by David Hamilton, screams “Islam” to practically everyone in the West, no matter how much anyone tries to rationalize that it does not.  Even “God” is not a good choice; while commonly used generically, different religions have radically different ideas who “God” is.  It is very easy to misinterpret “God” to refer to one’s own god rather than the god the speaker intended.  People try to bend the notion of “God” to fit their own notions.  For an example, see my recent commentary on His Dark Materials, in which “God” refers to a being bearing only vague surface resemblance to the God of Christianity.  This is why Muslims in Malaysia are going crazy over Christians using “Allah” to refer to the God of Christanity; they cannot accept that “Allah” might refer to anyone other than the God of Islam.  It is also why I have made a concerted effort to not used “God” to refer to the God of Judaism, but rather have taken to using “YHWH” and “HashShem” instead; the latter terms are unambiguous and take a lot more effort to bend to mean anything different.

Topic 3:  More religious humor:  “Prudence”.

All of you who are puzzled:  think The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.  (I have to get around to rereading The Chronicles of Narnia sometime...)  And I do hope to make religious humor a regular feature on this blog, besides serious topics.  I do not want to be completely dour, complaining about bad religion all the time, and sometimes the humor itself can be revealing.