Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Church of Body Modification

Greetings.

Jewish date:  18 Tishri 5771 (Parashath Bere’shith).

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Frank Liszt (Church of the SubGenius), Bureflux (Discordianism), Greater Eleusinian Mysteries (Thelema).

TEHRAN. With the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ah...Image of Ahmadinejad being treated as if he were a decent human being via Wikipedia
Topic 1:  Muslim misbehavior and failure of the West to treat it as misbehavior.  In “Ahmedenijad, Media Rock Star” and “Ahmedenijad Says America Killed the Victims of 9/11” Rav Shmuley Boteach complains about how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, loudmouth who spouts indecencies (to put in very mildly), defender of his country’s violation of a nuclear weapons control treaty which his country is a signatory, and all-around rotten person is treated with the deference of a decent human being by people in power, both in government and in the media, and is not treated like the dangerous lunatic he is.  And Rav Boteach has a point.  Because the West claims to be committed to noble virtues, such as freedom and justice, and a maniac like Ahmadinejad, who has proclaimed his intent to commit genocide, is in such contradictions to these values that he should be reviled as an archenemy.

In “Australian Muslim Cleric Calls for Beheading — Who Cares?” Larry Elder correctly notes a disparity in outrage concerning freedom of speech.  A Christian threatens to burn the Qur’an, and there is a huge outcry of condemnation.  But Muslim threats of violence and murder are ignored.  Burning books may be childish and offensive, but people normally claim that humans are morally more valuable to insentient books.  Why are Muslims being held to a different standard than everyone else?

Violence in east Jerusalem clouds peace efforts” deals with “Palestinians” rioting in Israel, making a mockery of all claims that the time is ripe for peace.

In “"Rushdie Rules" Reach Florida” Daniel Pipes deals with Muslim attempts to squelch anyone speaking against Islam, coupled with Islamic denigration of other religions.

Moroccan Convert Serving 15 Years for His Faith” deals with how those who leave Islam are treated in the Muslim world.

Topic 2:  On to something different than my usual complaints, with thanks to Erin for alerting me to this case:  “NC teen: Nose ring more than fashion, it's faith”.  The North Carolina teenager in question has been suspended from school for wearing a nose ring.  The reason she wears the nose ring in the first place is because she is a member of the Church of Body Modification.  And before you click on that link, do be aware that many may find the graphics on the site unsettling.  This is how the Church describes itself (under “About the Church”):
The Church of Body Modification represents a collection of members practicing ancient and modern body modification rites. We believe these rites are essential to our spirituality. Practicing body modification and engaging in body manipulation rituals strengthen the bond between mind, body, and soul. By doing so, we ensure that we live as spiritually complete and healthy individuals.
Two things should be noted about what are not stated.  First, no substantial reason is given to believe their chosen rites are useful in any way, shape, or form.  Second, there is no real theology in this description, e.g., which god told them to do this is not mentioned.

Now, of course, a few sentences are a small amount of material to put a lot of details in.  But the other statements on the site are also wanting.  Under “Mission Statement” they have:
We, the congregation of the Church of Body Modification, will always respect our bodies. We promise to always grow as individuals through body modification and what it can teach us about who we are and what we can do. We vow to share our experiences openly and honestly in order to promote growth in mind, body, and soul. We honor all forms of body modification and those who choose to practice body modification for any reason. We also promise to respect those who do not choose body modification. We support all that join us in our mission and help those seeking us in need of spiritual guidance. We strive to share a positive message with everyone we encounter, in order to act as positive role models for future generations in the body modification community. We always uphold basic codes of ethics and encourage others to do the same. We are a dynamic community, always growing and changing, continually promoting safety, education, and experience in body modification.
This is likewise lacking in real justification or theology.  And under “Statement of Faith” they have:
As followers of this faith, it is our purpose to educate and inspire, to share ideas, and to help each other achieve our dreams. We strive to unify and strengthen our mind, body, and soul so we can overcome any challenges we may encounter. We assert and protect our rights to modify our bodies and to practice our rituals.
We believe our bodies belong only to ourselves and are a whole and integrated entity: mind, body, and soul. We maintain we have the right to alter them for spiritual and other reasons.
Affirmation of our living, breathing, physical beings is paramount to our self-identities and helps us define who we are. The Church of Body Modification promotes affirmation and growth of a more expansive perspective of our physical and spiritual being.
No mention whatsoever is made of a deity who promotes body modification or anything else theological.  Though unusual, this is not an absolute barrier to religionhood; Unitarian Universalism is creedless, but it is normally considered a religion.  But while the Unitarian Universalists seem to be focused on the quest for truth, body modification and manipulation rituals seem to form the core of the Church of Body Modification.  The rituals themselves are supposed to have positive effects, as if the rituals are some sort of psychotherapy or magical rites.  This is the reverse of the way religions normally work, in which theology drives or at least is used to justify rituals.  (Though the Unitarian Universalists do have rituals of their own, too.)  If the rituals themselves are supposed to have power (as opposed to rituals being a form of worship and not necessarily more than symbolic), how they know these rituals have power is left unstated.  (Try to imagine a proper double-blinded study measuring the spiritual effects of tattooing.)  I have written to the Church, asking them to confirm that they have no theology, but they have not written back yet.  Hopefully more information on this new religious movement will eventually become available.

Topic 3:  For today’s religious humor: “seven sharpies”:
funny pictures of cats with captions

Peace.

Aaron
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