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Religion Retreats

THE ROLE of religion throughout history has been extremely powerful. Indeed it could be argued that it has affected human beings in every stage of society. In a hunting/gathering society human beings felt themselves surrounded by inexplicable forces. An erupting volcano was the voice of a god, lightning was a battle of invisible titans and the mysteries of birth and death could not be explained by any natural process. Into this enigma of existence strode the shaman, the soothsayer and the modern priest, imam and assorted holy men. A career in the black arts of superstition was rewarding.

With the advance of scientific knowledge religion has found itself in an ever increasing decline. Zeus, Thor, and millions of other ancient gods have been given their P45s and packed of to the land of myths and fables. We still have Jehovah and Allah kicking about haunting the minds of the gullible but their days are numbered. As the power of religion dwindles its adherents become more and more ludicrous in their claims. Here are a few recent crazy examples from 2008:

“A prominent Saudi Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Mickey Mouse, whom he characterized as an agent of Satan sent to corrupt young minds. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Munajid told Saudi Arabia’s Al-Majd Television that his beef with Mickey is that he is a mouse, a creature that Islam sees as ‘repulsive and corrupting.’ Al-Munajid explained that Islamic law refers to the mouse as ‘little corrupter’ and a creature that is ‘steered by Satan,’ and grants permission to all Muslims to ‘kill [mice] in all cases.’ Therefore, according to Islamic law, insisted the sheikh, ‘Mickey Mouse should be killed’” (Israel Today, 16 September).

No word yet of a fatwa on Donald Duck or Goofy yet but then maybe the Sheikh doesn’t get to the movies much these days. We wonder what he makes of Tom and Jerry.

“More than half of Americans believe they are protected by a guardian angel and two in three are certain that heaven exists, according to a study of US religious beliefs released Thursday. The survey, conducted by researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, asked 350 questions about religion to 1,648 adults across the country. Fifty-five percent said they believed they were protected from harm by a guardian angel, a figure that researcher Christopher Bader said came as a surprise. ‘To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that,’ he said. Sixty-seven percent said they were ‘absolutely sure’ heaven exists and 17 percent believed it ‘probably’ does. Seventy-three percent of Americans believe in hell, it found’” (Yahoo News, 18 September).

This is a case of a Waco researcher asking wacco questions and getting wacky  answers.

“In Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law sometimes takes a back seat to the rule of God, zealots are on a campaign to stamp out behavior they consider unchaste. They hurl stones at women for such ‘sins’ as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet. In recent weeks, self-styled ‘modesty patrols’ have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography” (Yahoo News, 4 October).

And people sneer at fundamentalist Muslims!

RD