Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flu the coup

A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that what leads people to leave their faith is that, somehow for some reason, it isn't meeting their needs, according to this WaPo article.

The study characterizes its findings with the claim more Americans have given up their faith or changed religions because of a gradual spiritual drift.


While it may be easy in the US to drift into or away from religions, in the olden days and in other parts of the world, that falls under the category of apostasy, and can be quite a serious offense.

But, where the Pew study seems to say its survey suggests people were not particularly driven away from religion, the drift does seem to Guambat to be more of a push if not a drive.

Here's some examples of things that might aid the push from tonight's google news aggregator.


The author of this piece (Benjamin L. Hartman, "Making swine flu kosher: A symptom of the disease of Israeli politics") says,
The de facto head of the Israeli Health Ministry, MK Yakov Litzman, stated Monday that swine flu would be from here on in referred to as "Mexico Flu," as pork is non-kosher and considered unclean under Jewish law....

It's just one more in a series of state-sanctioned declarations by a government official that serves only to further humiliate Israel in the eyes of the world.

Such is the system that produces a government where a party representing a community whose media cannot print the word sex, airbrushes women out of photos, and binds them into a strict second-class status, can be put in charge of the Health Ministry, a ministry legally bound to protect the well-being of all Israelis, regardless of gender, race or religion.

It also brings up the issue putting a man who can't say the word "vagina" in charge of a ministry that supervises gynecological issues. How can a man whose usage of the Hebrew language is governed by his own interpretation of Jewish law deal with issues like teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or post-natal care for women?

This attempted rebranding of swine flu raises another issue about the dangers of Israel's lack of separation of synagogue and state, albeit one less important or divisive than the monopoly held by the religious over marriage, death, circumcision, public transport, and dietary laws.

This danger is the constant ability of the religious, when put in charge of government ministries, to make a mockery of a modern, would-be sophisticated western country that sees itself as a beacon of pluralism and modernity in a region darkened by religious fundamentalism and political extremism.

It lessens our ability to see ourselves beholden to a political culture superior to that of our neighbors in the region, giving us more and more in common with those further to the east who banned kite flying, the playing of music, and whistling.

Perhaps that is why this editorial by Norman H. Olsen, a former senior United States Foreign Service officer who served at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv from 1991 to 1995, and from 2002 to 2007, including four years as chief of the political section, in the Christian Science Monitor called for No more make-believe in the Middle East
Settlement construction, including the massive developments encircling Jerusalem, has continued for four decades. All of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's predecessors – even the "doves" – never once slowed settlement construction, despite their repeated assurances. Throughout, despite intensive US monitoring and reporting on growth, the US has always pretended to believe them.

Once he became prime minister in the 1990s, even firebrand Netanyahu played the "we pretend, you pretend" game, signing on to the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, which, among other things, provided billions in US funding for Israel's redeployment out of the West Bank and Gaza.

Now, though, Netanyahu appears to have ended the charade, although perhaps only until political expediency warrants another metamorphosis. His policies may be misguided, but his intellectual honesty may prove salutary.

The Israeli right and its American supporters have a hard time claiming Israeli moderation and reasonableness when Netanyahu and his ministers openly oppose a two-state arrangement; affirm the blockade of Gaza, preventing reconstruction there; tout settlement expansion; brag of undermining US efforts to talk with Iran; and threaten an attack on Iran – across US-controlled Iraqi airspace – that could jeopardize US troops and interests throughout the region.

In lifting the veil on Israeli policy and the criticism-stifling fiction of US-Israeli mutual interest, Netanyahu leaves the US open, finally, to voice and pursue its own positions and interests.

Is it any wonder, then, that Abbas won’t recognize Israel as Jewish state?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it will be impossible for the two sides to arrive at a peace agreement if the Palestinians do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

"A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean?" the Palestinian Authority president asked in a speech Monday in Ramallah. "You can call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it and I say so publicly."

And then there's Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the dame who said no to Notre Dame, who wanted to award her the prestigious Laetare Medal. Glendon was the Bush Administration's final ambassador to the Holy See.

Why?

Because the university has invited the President of the United States (and Harvard Law School grad) to give the commencement address to this year's graduating class. She said,
First, as a longtime Consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the President an honorary degree.

This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. Bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Then I learned that "talking points" issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event.
She labeled Obama, "a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice."

Back to that Pew study and WaPo article,
the large and growing number of people who report having no religious affiliation are actually surprisingly open to religion, researchers said.

Having worshiped in at least one faith already, about three in 10 said they had just not yet found the right religion.

This is just some of the stuff that happens along when push comes to drift. Perhaps people around the globe are saying, no more make-believe here, either.
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