Category Archives: Israel

The secular Egyptian protest a good start for a successful revolution

The ongoing Egyptian revolution has captured the attention and sympathy of people around the world. This is helped by the worldwide availability of internet access and social messaging devices. Even when the Mubarak regime cut off the internet, demonstrators were still able to get their message out. A warning to tyrants everywhere.

Twitter has been full of messages of support. And it is amazing what can be condensed into 140 characters. I like the simple messages which used the image of software installation on a computer to make a political point. For example this for d@dn2k which makes the point that Mubarak’s downfall is just the start of the beginning.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.dn2k (@dn2k)
12/02/11 9:18 AM
RT @25Egypt: ّ Uninstalling dictator COMPLETE 100% ██████████████████ Installing now: egypt 2.0: █░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ #jan25 #Feb11

Egyptians certainly do face some huge political tasks with many opportunities and many pitfalls. The army’s support is essential for any new regime – and there will be an ongoing struggle by all sides to exert influence here. And some commentators have been preoccupied with the possibility of extreme Islamic groups influencing the revolution.

I have been heartened by the discipline and peaceful nature of the protests. Most violence seems to have been instigated by the security forces and  stooges of Mubarak’s regime. The occupation of Tahrir Square  over such a long period reveals a welcome degree of organisation. Protesters have organised to maintain their control and to provide services for the occupiers.

I hope this demonstrates that the various political forces within the protest have been negotiating among themselves to build a basis for unity. Also that they have been negotiating with the army and elements of the old regime to build some sort of trust and agreement on transition.

The protest itself has had a strong secular character. There has not been a preoccupation with religious agendas. At the same time the protests have not been sectarian. This was demonstrated by the cooperation of majority Muslims with minority Christians. Even to the extent of providing protection for each others prayers and services. Even cooperating together with some of these.

The unity and secular nature of the protest, and the revolution so far, are positive indications for the near future.

But to get back to Twitter. there has been some comment that the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt will encourage people in other countries to demand their human rights. Already we have seen big protests in Jordan and Yemen.

Daisy McDonald used another computer graphic to suggest world wide possibilities.

daisy_mcdonald (@daisy_mcdonald)
12/02/11 12:36 PM
@eddieizzard MT @jmgoig Please wait while uninstalling rest of dictators of the world: █░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ #egypt #jan25 <–fingers crossed!

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Non religious in Australia and New Zealand

Australian-New Zealand CensusHere’s an interesting question?

New Zealanders and Australians have a lot in common. We think of ourselves as sibling nations. We often tell jokes about each other (I must say, however, that Australian jokes about Kiwis usually involve sheep and don’t seem funny to me).

But look at the figures for religious affiliation taken from census data. Why are the “no relgion” results lower in Australia than New Zealand? And the “Christian results correspondingly higher?

NZ Religion question

(OK, we may have jokes about this – but seriously).

Well, have a look at the actual census questions about religion asked in the two countries.

Notice that the “no religion” choice is at the top of the list in New Zealand question (number 18 – grey) but buried at the bottom in the Australian question (number 19 – orange).

Do Australians opt for a religion in their census answers because they don’t , at first glance, notice the “no religion” option?

Does the Australian census overestimate religiosity?
See also:
Christianity – a declining population.

Similar articles:
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
New Zealand supports evolution
God’s not as popular as we thought

Gaza: Stop Blockade and War

This from AVAA.ORG:

The years-old blockade of Gaza is at crisis point: with the humanitarian crisis growing, the southern border has been breached and 350,000 Palestinians are pouring across. The situation is out of control — the world must step in.
To prevent catastrophe and protect civilians on all sides, your voice is needed urgently: we’re running an emergency global campaign to international, European and Arab leaders, calling on them to stop the siege, oversee open borders and help broker a ceasefire. We’ll deliver the petition when we reach 150,000 signatures – please add your name below, then spread the word:

To the United Nations, the European Union, the Quartet, the Arab League & Israel: We demand that you end the blockade and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, ensure the free flow of supplies by land, sea or air, and help to broker the ceasefire which civilians on both sides desperately need.

To sign the petition on-line go to Gaza: Stop Blockade and War

Heresy, or common sense?

The Last Western Heretic, a documentary about the life and ideas of Lloyd Geering, was shown on New Zealand TV last weekend. It was excellent – extremely well made and great intellectual content. Geering is considered a radical theologian and a NZ icon and was once described by the BBC as “the last living heretic.” He has fearlessly challenged Christian doctrine for the last 50 years. I have read several of his books and attended several of his seminars. His ideas are always stimulating and refreshing.

I admire people who are prepared to challenge outmoded ideas. Particularly when this could result in personal and financial recrimination. I suspect that there are many thoughtful ministers of religion who have come to the same conclusions as Geering. However, most of these appear unprepared to face the prospect of loss of income and pension rights, and a comfortable life style, which would result from public honesty on these questions. So they continue to hypocritically promote the same old tired myths to their parishioners.

The documentary is structured around the following nine statements:

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Religion and violence

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US the world has been very aware of religious violence. Every day the news from Iraq seems to confirm a violent face to religion. There is a tendency to see this as mainly a problem of Islam. However the Bible shows that violence is also strongly emeshed in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Bishop Spong discusses this in his lecture The Terrible Texts of the Bible.

Jill Carroll eloquently argues, in the video posted here, that violence is inherent in all religions. She goes further to discuss how this has arisen as a natural result of the violence arising in human and social evolution. A very enthusiastic speaker, Jill Carroll is the Associate Director of the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice University. This Boniuk Community Lecture was presented in the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Texas.

Jill Carroll: Religion and Violence. 78 min.

Related Articles:
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Faith and terrorism
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Crimes of Communism and Christianity
Richard Dawkins and the enemies of reason
Faith and terrorism

The Trouble with Islam

I have just finished reading Irshad Manji’s The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. It is an impassioned plea by Muslim believer for the reform of a religion she describes as being frozen and archaic. Although I can agree with most of what she says I feel that in contrasting her religion with Judaism and Christianity she tends to let the other religions off lightly. While scriptural literalism and the dead hand of the religious hierarchy are clearly more extreme in Islam, they still exert an influence in the other two religions.

However, the book does raise issues for non-Muslims, particularly with respect to how societies like ours deal with issues of religious diversity and tolerance.

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♦ Would we recognise the second coming?

I have just begun reading Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Its a great read, although I can understand fundamentalist believers being offended. Hitchens certainly has a way with words and can write strongly and with humour. I don’t feel it has the scientific rigour of The God Delusion and find myself wondering of some if his assertions may be exaggerations, or even unreliable.

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♦ A national anthem recognising diversity?

Recent discussion of religious diversity in New Zealand has ignored the question of a our national anthem “God Defend New Zealand”. If the parliamentary (Christian) prayer is an issue surely the anthem is! The following article from the New York Times illustrates that Israel also has problems with its national anthem. It refers to the positive example of South Africa setting “an excellent example in inclusive nation-building” with its national anthem. The discussion is very relevant to our situation. Continue reading