II Samuel 6:6-8


6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

See other: Often Ignored Bible Verses

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Conversations: Interfaith Dialogue


Helena
It is a truism that devout religious people tend to view questions of public policy and global conflict in terms of their affiliation with their religion.

Sappho
That is exactly why it seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world through inter-faith dialogue. Devout Muslims are as convinced as Christians are that their religion is perfect and that any deviation leads directly to hell.

Galene
However, it should be noted that representatives of the major religions occasionally meet and agree that there should be peace on earth, or that compassion is the common thread that unites all the world’s faiths.

Sappho
True, but there is no escaping the fact that a person’s religious beliefs uniquely determine what he thinks peace is good for, as well as what he means by a term like “compassion.” For instance, there are millions—maybe hundreds of millions—of Muslims who would be willing to die before they would allow a Christian, Jewish or Hindu version of compassion to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Helena
How can interfaith dialogue, even at the highest level, reconcile worldviews that are fundamentally incompatible and, in principle, immune to revision? The truth is, it really matters what billions of human beings believe and why they believe it.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 27-28)

Conversations: Political Correctness


Xanthippe
We know that socio-economic factors explain most violence in societies.

Helena
This is true, but religion fuelled tribalism and bigotry should not be excused in its entirety. Consider the jihadist movement, how many more architects and engineers must hit the wall at four hundred miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics?

Sappho
Good point. The exploitation of secular values, the demand for tolerance of misogyny and religious hatred, are not merely the result of broad socio-economic factors. Nor are forced marriages, honour killings, punitive gang rapes, or the homicidal loathing of homosexuals. Continue reading

Forced to Love


Nelson: ‘I fear you’? This is what Valentine’s Day means to you?

Bart: This is what it means to everyone. How can you be forced to say ‘I love you’? People only give Valentines because they’re scared of what would happen if they didn’t.

– The Simpsons (2013) Season 25, Episode 11; “Specs and the City” [No. 541]

Euthyphro Dilemma


Socrates: We shall know better, my good friend, in a little while. The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.

– Plato, Euthyphro

Conversations: Orlando


Helena
There is every reason to assume that, in a period of time leading up to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the perpetrator was dealing with severe feelings of repression and rejection from both men and women. In time, these feelings were converted into anger, which he then directed specifically at homosexual men, culminating in the shooting of 102 people, of which 49 were killed. Although we know the he was not aided by a terrorist organisation, it is obvious that, in the weeks leading up to the shooting, the perpetrator found comfort in hate-driven dogma which not only intensified his anger, but also justified violence. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the perpetrator must have been filled with confused anger and pious indignation when he legally purchased a semi-automatic assault rifle two weeks before the shooting. Can the reasonable worries expressed by reasonable people be any more graphically illustrated by the events that followed? Continue reading

Conversations: Faith and Facts


Helena
People who believe there is such a thing as a loving caring omnipotent being have always had a tough time, for examples of God’s failure to protect humanity are everywhere to be seen. The city of New Orleans, for instance, was destroyed by a hurricane not too long ago. More than a thousand people died; tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions; and nearly a million were displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Hurricane Katrina struck shared the Abrahamic belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God.

Zoe
Following that line of reasoning, what was God doing while Katrina laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were, undoubtedly, on the whole, good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Do we have the courage to admit the obvious? – These poor people died talking to an imaginary friend. Continue reading

Repression From Desire


Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate.[1]

Shakespeare touched upon this phenomenon in King Lear, when Lear reproaches the policeman who is whipping a prostitute because of his lust for her company:

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore?
Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her.
King Lear (Act 4, Scene 6) Continue reading