The Passion in Arabia

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Drudge links to an AP article detailing that The Passion of the Christ is a big hit in the Middle East. And why not? To outsiders, Muslim beliefs about Jesus are confusing: They consider him a prophet, blame the Jews for persecuting him, but claim he wasn't actually crucified. But if there's one thing that can bring together Arab Christians and Muslims, it's surely a movie in which Jews can be hissed at.

Which isn't quite the same as saying The Passion is in fact anti-semitic (I don't think it is). But it's obviously being read that way by certain audiences in the Middle East. E.g.:

In Jordan, a leader of the hard-line Islamic Action Front says Muslims should read the Quran or pray instead of watching movies, but he doesn't mind "The Passion" being screened in his country.

"The Jews are the most upset with the movie because it reveals their crimes against the prophets, the reformers and whoever contradicts their opinions," Hamza Mansoor said.

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  1. Well, I guess if you don’t find the image offensive, no there’s nothing overtly offensive about it. But when the Chinese reads Heiren Yagao, Black Man toothpaste, something clicks (in me at least).

    But the image seems straight out of a 1920s American minstrel show, with bow-tie and tophat. If that’s your threshold then, yes, it’s offensive.

  2. Eric,

    Its interesting to note that you think of “humanists” as your enemy. So much for the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

    joe,

    Go to Poland; anti-semitism is rampant there; indeed, with the downdfall of the Polish left this year, the nationalist party, which is worse than le Pen ever considered being, may have a chance of pulling together a coalition government in next year’s election.

    rst,

    It is not hyperbole; Christian and Muslim both have constant and until recent time (at least as far as Christianity is concerned) enduring refrains of oppression of Jews. Quit whitewashing the historical record.

  3. Joe, Gibson would be remise in his obligations as a Christian for not releasing his film in the Middle East. Sure, many there will only use the film for their own ends. But the hope is that others may actually come to know Christ.

    I know, you think that’s ridiculous, but hey, not everyone on this blog thinks religion is for quacks. But then again, maybe they do, I could really care less what they think. Ooops, does that mean I hate humanists Fred? Whatever.

    And to Jennifer, the recovering Christian. I suspect you never really were a Christian. Your family probably attempted to raise you that way and well, you just never got it and probably never will. Too bad.

  4. Anonymous,

    That’s O.K., just so long as you don’t hate humorists.

  5. fyodor,

    OK, fair enough. Short answer is “no I can’t.”

    However, while I can’t give an example of how an Arab audience might misinterpret a given work, I can think of an instance where a work might be similarly misinterpreted.

    Since I mentioned Mel Brooks…

    Growing up in the south, I knew more than a few redneck types that loved Blazing Saddles because of the “nigger jokes”. That the characters whose attitudes reflected their own were the target of the most ridicule in the film was completely lost on them.

  6. Anonymous-
    Nyaah nyaah nyaah to you too. No, seriously, as a kid I was so Christian I felt terribly sorry for those unfortunate people who were raised in other faiths, because they would most likely go to Hell solely for their unbelief.

    I think the first crack in my Christian facade came from the missionary drive. I had asked my Sunday-school teachers what happens to people who were non-Christian because they never, ever heard of Jesus. My teachers said that in that case, they would be judged by whether or not they were good people, and could still go to Heaven when they died.

    Then a couple months later the church had a fundraiser to send some missionaries somewhere. I was opposed to this. After all, right now the folks in Village X had never heard of Christ, so the good ones would go to Heaven when they died.

    But suppose the missionaries showed up, talked about Jesus and did a really bad job? Now the good people of Village X would go to Hell, because they’d heard about Christ and chose not to worship him! I thought, Missionaries don’t SAVE good people–they make it possible for good people to go to Hell! I was very upset and scared, as only an eight-year-old can be, and ran to the minister’s office and tried to persuade him to stop the missionary program.

    The minister was a good man, who tried to answer rather than dismiss the concerns of a sobbing third-grader, but the more he tried to explain things the more inconsistencies he raised. And it’s been that way with religious people ever since.

  7. Anonymous,
    “And to Jennifer, the recovering Christian. I suspect you never really were a Christian. Your family probably attempted to raise you that way and well, you just never got it and probably never will. Too bad.”

    Such snide and snarky remarks are neither helpful nor warranted. What right or knowledge do you have to question someone else’s sincerity? History is replete with sincere Christians who became sincere doubters (some regained their faith, others did not).

    Jennifer can fight her own battles, but thoughtless comments like yours is one reason Christians and Christianity are unpopular to a lot of people.

  8. Anonymous-
    Nyaah nyaah nyaah to you too. No, seriously, as a kid I was so Christian I felt terribly sorry for those unfortunate people who were raised in other faiths, because they would most likely go to Hell solely for their unbelief.

    I think the first crack in my Christian facade came from the missionary drive. I had asked my Sunday-school teachers what happens to people who were non-Christian because they never, ever heard of Jesus. My teachers said that in that case, they would be judged by whether or not they were good people, and could still go to Heaven when they died.

    Then a couple months later the church had a fundraiser to send some missionaries somewhere. I was opposed to this. After all, right now the folks in Village X had never heard of Christ, so the good ones would go to Heaven when they died.

    But suppose the missionaries showed up, talked about Jesus and did a really bad job? Now the good people of Village X would go to Hell, because they’d heard about Christ and chose not to worship him! I thought, Missionaries don’t SAVE good people–they make it possible for good people to go to Hell! I was very upset and scared, as only an eight-year-old can be, and ran to the minister’s office and tried to persuade him to stop the missionary program.

    The minister was a good man, who tried to answer rather than dismiss the concerns of a sobbing third-grader, but the more he tried to explain things the more inconsistencies he raised. And it’s been that way with religious people ever since.

  9. My apologies for the double-post, but I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that the Reason Hit’n’Run posting software really, really sucks lately.

  10. Brian,

    Interesting point about Blazing Saddles (I thought you were talking about The Producers or something!). I would say that Brooks knew he was pushing the envelope for that very reason. And it still leaves open the question of whether any film would exercise the already existing anti-Semitism in Muslim audiences the way this may have. Note, I’m certainly not saying the movie created any anti-semitism where it didn’t exist before, only that it helped fan such sentiments, and I certainly wouldn’t think that would be true of any film.

    All that said, I return to my original point that it’s a perrennial, timeless paradox that has no one answer. I suppose Gibson could say that whatever harm his film might be doing is offset by the good he expects it to do. But that doesn’t mean we all have to agree with him!

  11. > Which isn’t quite the same as saying The Passion is in fact anti-semitic (I don’t think it is). But it’s obviously being read that way by certain audiences in the Middle East.

  12. Wow, Eric, I never thought I’d say this, but… Thanks!

    I guess I had you pegged for a fundie Atheist hater.

    There might just be hope for humanity after all.

  13. Anon, me hate Christians? I’ll have to tell that to the folks at Shrine after mass.

    “Joe, Gibson would be remise in his obligations as a Christian for not releasing his film in the Middle East. Sure, many there will only use the film for their own ends. But the hope is that others may actually come to know Christ.” The movie completely disregards Jesus’ teachings, provides almost no backstory, and has only the slightest treatment of the resurrection. Jesus is only a lump of flesh that endures torture. In intent and effect, this movie is not about conversion – it’s an insider movie, a pep talk for people already on the team.

    If Gibson wants to convert Muslims, he should make a movie about the Sermon on the Mount.

  14. I don’t see what’s so confusing about Islamic beliefs regarding Jesus. Essentially everything up to the crucifixtion is the same (except for the Son of God bit, though he was still immaculately concieved), but instead of being crucified, he was whisked up to heaven to await all humanity before on the Day of Judgement. Oh, there was still a crucifixtion of ‘Jesus’, someone else took the fall instead (sucks to be him). The other guy’ll get eternal bliss, 72 virgins and all the jazz. You’d think God would have pity on the fall guy and make him impervious to pain and have him just die, but there’s no mention of that. That concludes this installment of “What Mo Learned in Sunday school.”

  15. Heh. Jennifer, as a fellow “recovering Christian”, I empathize. Since the particular branch of evangelical Christianity in which I was raised believes that salvation comes solely by faith (i.e., once you say you trust in Jesus it’s a done deal, you’re saved and it is irrevocable), people tend to react to my latter day non-belief with either “well then you were never a Christian anyway” as Mr/Ms. Anon did above, or with “well, you’re still saved whether you like it or not”.

    Strangely, this puts me in the position of being more irritated with the people who insist I am going to heaven than those who insist I am condemned to hell.

    😉

  16. Brian-
    Hmm. So once you’re saved it’s irrevocable? Cool–I was saved a couple dozen times before I even hit puberty. One of ’em was bound to take. Maybe I’ll go to Heaven after all! If I do I’ll put in a good word for you. But to be honest, I was wishing some current Christian would answer the question posed by my missionary story: if good people who have never heard of Jesus are allowed to go to Heaven, then isn’t funding missionaries kind of sinful? You know, endangering people’s souls?

    Mo-

    I’ve heard that Islam reveres Jesus as a prophet, but was he “just” a prophet, or did he also have magic powers? And did he ever predict the coming of Mohammed?

  17. The Koran has the Jews

    “saying: ‘We killed the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God;’
    but they neither killed nor crucified [H]im,
    though it so appeared to them. . . .
    for surely they did not kill [H]im,
    But God raised [H]im up (in position)
    and closer to Himself”

    (Sura 4:157-158; translation by Ahmed Ali)

    The Koran isn’t specific about how the Jews were fooled into thinking they crucified Jesus, but the Koran clearly denies that Jesus was actually crucified. Islamic tradition (not the Koran itself) has stories about how some other guy pretended to be Jesus and got crucified in His place.

    Therefore, a Muslim who was serious about his beliefs would consider Mel’s movie to be inaccurate and contrary to Islam.

    This indicates that the Muslims quoted as praising the movie, on the grounds that it tells “the truth” about Jews, are so steeped in anti-Semitism that they are willing to accept a story that their own religion teaches them is fictitious.

    A Muslim who could be whipped into anti-Semitism by seeing this movie was probably anti-Semitic before (s)he went into the theater, and would have adopted an anti-Semitic interpretation of just about any movie (s)he saw. If Gibson had done a movie in which no Jews were involved in the Crucifixion, the Muslim anti-Semites who saw the movie would have called it a whitewash of the Jews, and further proof of Jewish domination of Hollywood.

    I suspect that the Muslims who invoke this movie to justify their anti-Semitism are the same kind of people as the Muslims who see Barbie dolls as a Jewish conspiracy to corrupt Islam.

    If you’re going to blame Mel for Muslim paranoia, why not blame the Barbie doll people? After all, they should have known that their dolls would be interpreted as a Jewish conspiracy, so they are responsible for the misinterpretation of their dolls.

  18. The Koran has the Jews

    “saying: ‘We killed the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God;’
    but they neither killed nor crucified [H]im,
    though it so appeared to them. . . .
    for surely they did not kill [H]im,
    But God raised [H]im up (in position)
    and closer to Himself”

    (Sura 4:157-158; translation by Ahmed Ali)

    The Koran isn’t specific about how the Jews were fooled into thinking they crucified Jesus, but the Koran clearly denies that Jesus was actually crucified. Islamic tradition (not the Koran itself) has stories about how some other guy pretended to be Jesus and got crucified in His place.

    Therefore, a Muslim who was serious about his beliefs would consider Mel’s movie to be inaccurate and contrary to Islam.

    This indicates that the Muslims quoted as praising the movie, on the grounds that it tells “the truth” about Jews, are so steeped in anti-Semitism that they are willing to accept a story that their own religion teaches them is fictitious.

    A Muslim who could be whipped into anti-Semitism by seeing this movie was probably anti-Semitic before (s)he went into the theater, and would have adopted an anti-Semitic interpretation of just about any movie (s)he saw. If Gibson had done a movie in which no Jews were involved in the Crucifixion, the Muslim anti-Semites who saw the movie would have called it a whitewash of the Jews, and further proof of Jewish domination of Hollywood.

    I suspect that the Muslims who invoke this movie to justify their anti-Semitism are the same kind of people as the Muslims who see Barbie dolls as a Jewish conspiracy to corrupt Islam.

    If you’re going to blame Mel for Muslim paranoia, why not blame the Barbie doll people? After all, they should have known that their dolls would be interpreted as a Jewish conspiracy, so they are responsible for the misinterpretation of their dolls.

  19. Sorry for the inadverdent multiple postings.

  20. I hope *True Lies* wasn’t released in Israel. It might have inflamed the Israelis against the Arabs.

  21. Reruns already?

  22. Hanan Nsour, a veiled, 21-year-old Muslim in Jordan, came out of “The Passion of the Christ” in tears and pronounced her verdict: Mel Gibson’s crucifixion epic “unmasked the Jews’ lies and I hope that everybody, everywhere, turns against the Jews.”

  23. As long as we’re discussing the effects of movies on vulnerable audiences, look at this frightening account, which we know to be true because the U. S. Supreme Court said it (Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993)):

    “On the evening of October 7, 1989, a group of young black men and boys, including Mitchell, gathered at an apartment complex in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Several members of the group discussed a scene from the motion picture ‘Mississippi Burning’ in which a white man beat a young black boy who was praying. The group moved outside and Mitchell asked them: ‘Do you all feel hyped up to move on some white people?’ Brief for Petitioner 4. Shortly thereafter, a young white boy approached the group on the opposite side of the street where they were standing. As the boy walked by, Mitchell said: ‘You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy; go get him.’ Id. at 4-5. Mitchell counted to three and pointed in the boy’s direction. The group ran toward the boy, beat him severely, and stole his tennis shoes. The boy was rendered unconscious and remained in a coma for four days.”

    I think it should be obvious from this account that the producers of “Mississippi Burning” are morally responsible for the death of that poor white boy. At a time when anti-white bigotry is rife in the black community, the producers irresponsibly chose to make a movie about crimes committed by white people against black people. Of course, some of the good guys in the movie are white people, but just as Gibson couldn’t get away with the excuse that his movie had good Jews, so the producers of “Mississippi Burning” shouldn’t get away with the excuse that their movie had good white people.

    “Mississippi Burning” is much worse than “The Passion.” It led to an actual, documented hate crime (see above), in contrast to “The Passion.” At least “The Passion” has some non-Jewish bad guys, but in “Mississippi Burning” *all the bad guys are white.* Couldn’t they have put in some black bad guys, for the sake of balance?

    When will the makers of “Mississippi Burning” be held accountable for fanning the flames of anti-white racism?

    Don’t even get me started on *Roots.*

  24. OK, so technically the white boy didn’t die. I was wrong. But he *was* in a coma. It was all the fault of “Mississippi Burning.”

  25. Jennifer,
    He had “magic powers,” but they were the ones granted by God. They were just lumped with the various other miracles performed by prophets. Moses parting the Red/Reed Sea or turning his stick into a snake (unless you know people that can do that otherwise, Jonah and the whale, etc. Interestingly enough, Muhammed didn’t do any magic tricks. Koran Kwoter is correct that it does not state anywhere that Jesus was replaced on the cross, but things not being in the Koran (or Bible for you Christians) never stopped it from being taught in Sunday school.

    I was cleaning up some of my stuff from my dad’s place and found some awards I won from my old Sunday school for religion and stuff. I wonder how they’d feel if they knew I was a “recovering Muslim”? 🙂

    Brian,
    You recovering Christians have it easy. I still don’t have the balls to tell my family in Egypt that I’ve strayed. I go through the motions and b.s. as best I can off what I remember as a kid (fortunately, a lot of people don’t know that much and I get the slide because I’m American). My parents wholeheartedly support this fakery because it just makes all of our lives easier. The funny thing is my mom would prefer I convert to Christianity or Judaism than be “stubborn” and stick with this agnostic/deistic “phase” (which has gotten greater approval than my prior atheism).

  26. Where not His apostles Jews. In fact, He and Mary were. So the antagonists and the protagonists were Jews. Perhaps that’s what happens when you set a story in Judea.

  27. wellfellow,

    Like that fact has ever kept Christians or Muslims from wantonly slaughtering Jews whenever they got the desire to do so.

  28. Jean Bart,

    How very true, and how very sad.

  29. i’ve never quite understand the end-around on that.

    but that goes for most of the western tradition in my eyes. 2000+ years of spittakes and blood.

  30. It’s an ancient paradox. Should an artist or philosopher or any purveyor of ideas be held accountable for misinterpretations of his works or words?

  31. fyodor–

    Hell no.

    These particular audiences (or precisely, certain members of the audiences) went in expecting another reason to hate Jews.

    They could have found a reason to hate Jews in a Mel Brooks movie.

  32. Mo-
    I don’t mean to sound like a bigot here (“The religion *I* no longer believe is better than the religion *you* no longer believe”) but I think it really is easier to be ex-Christian than ex-Muslim. Doesn’t the Koran demand the death penalty for apostate Muslims? The Bible does of course have verses calling for the death of non-believers, but I don’t think it specifically reminds anyone to kill the fallen-away. Unless they join Wicca, because “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

    As for your parents’ preferring a Jewish son to an atheist one–of course. Many religious people believe that the wrong religion is better than no religion at all! Worshipping god incorrectly is better than denying him entirely, don’t you know.

  33. A Japanese company released a hair tonic or something under a brand called “Darkie” with a big picture of a grinnin, white toothed, big lipped Al Jolsten on the label. They didn’t “mean” it to be racist, but it was “read” that way by the American public. Another east Asian company released “Hitler” brand something or other. Again, the didn’t “mean” it to be antisemitic, but Westerners “read” it that way.

    “The Passion” is worse, because while the Asians didn’t know about the cultural baggage associated with those images, Gibson knows damn well the baggage associated with having two Jews (the head Pharisee and Judas) arguing about money, and scheming Jews conspiring to kill Jesus, and a vast Jewish mob calling for his blood, and a poor sensitive Roman governor being bullied by scheming Jews into condemning innocent Jesus.

    The New Republic article that started the controversy predicted that the movie would not cause a surge of antisemitism in America, but would be trouble in parts of the world where antisemitic tropes are more commonly heard and believed. So score one for them.

  34. i’ve never quite understand the end-around on that.

    but that goes for most of the western tradition in my eyes. 2000+ years of spittakes and blood.

  35. Strap’en down and tooth-pick their eyes open for continuous screenings of South Park’s “Passion of the Jew”.

  36. Minor comment for Joe, and I know it’s not really your point, but: I’m pretty sure that that South Korean company that used a little cartoon Hitler to sell candy had a pretty good idea of its cultural baggage. I’d guess the Japanese company you refer to did too…

    Again–not really the heart of your post, I know.

  37. Joe,

    This only works if you ignore the protagonists’ race/culture. Or if you only pick certain characters to make your point. As far as the protagonists, were they a minority? Sure. Was their race or culture an essential part of the narrative? Not really. Nor were the antagonists’. Furthermore, Pilot was portrayed as the poor sensitive governor, but the Roman soldiers were portrayed as blood thirsty animals. It is horrible that there are people looking for an excuse for their anti-semitism, however, from watching the movie, you cannot blame Mel Gibson or even accuse him of fueling this any more than you could say that Gladiator fuels anti-Italian sentiments.

  38. Better get my comment in quick before this thread gets stomped on like the Not Rod Stewart’s Passion thread.

    Focus on the basics, kids. Why was religion, any religion, invented? For best results, look to the history of the Jewish religion. (Why wasn’t Zoroastrianism good enough?) No, I’m not going to answer these questions and crawl into a dead-end discussion that perfectly suits the Christianists. Can’t argue when the other side relies solely on ‘faith’ for its argument.

    I know why religions, all of them, were invented and are still being invented and will continue to be invented. I’ve always wondered why Christians hate humanists. I know the answer to that too and I again choose not to share it. It took me 40 years of effort to gain that knowledge (and my freedom), so why should I share it?

    The only value religion has to a guy like me is to remind me that there are, um…, inconsistancies throughout all of human life and existance. Take religion on faith? That is the weakest arguement of all. Much weaker than Pascal’s. A guy 2000 years ago died for my sins so that I can have eternal Life? How convenient.

    But there is a guy who cares. He’s got long hair, works as a carpenter and he’s dating Jimbo Jones’ mother.

    Hope I didn’t wander too far from what everyone else will be discussing.

  39. Guess I did wander, quite a bunch.

  40. Fred,
    “I’ve always wondered why Christians hate humanists.”

    I’m a Christian and I don’t hate humanists, so be carefule with the generalizations. However, I’m sure you’ve come across Christians who had forgotten or chosen to ignore the “love your enemies” dictate, and if you really want to get their goat, zap them with it. They deserve it.

  41. Brian,

    I understand your point, but instead of just saying “they could have found a reason to hate Jews in a Mel Brooks movie,” can you (or anyone) actually cite an example of Arab audiences finding anti-semitism where there clearly was none? I’m not necessarily saying that has never happened, only that a real life example would be a hell of a lot more convincing than a made up one.

  42. Eric, I’m glad to see you got the short-hand of my phrase. I don’t like to blather like William James, but choose to economize.

  43. wellfellow, it is perfectly reasonable to blame someone for putting out a message that he knows will be used for evil, even if (still a big if) furthering that evil was not his intent.

    A banner reading “Happy Martin Luther King Day” is a very nice thing. Hanging it on your black neighbor’s house when a KKK mob is rampaging through town is not. Gibson had to know how his movie would be read by antisemitic audiences, and not only did he put it out anyway, he chose to release it in notoriously antisemitic countries.

    Irresponsible is the most generous description of his actions.

  44. Finally, something where conservative posters here can agree with the Arabs: The predominantly liberal people complaining about the Passion being anti-Semitic are all whiners.

  45. Fred-
    There seems to be a part of the human brain pre-wired for religion; apparently even the Neanderthals believed in life after death, judging by the way they buried their dead. Religion predates humanity (and prevents humanity from reaching its full potential).

    As a recovering Christian I can tell you why Christians hate and/or feel contempt for humanists: our perceived ungratitude. Imagine this: I am in big trouble, dirt-broke, no money or job, and you help me, clean me up, find me a good job and get my life back on track. After all you’ve done for me, I don’t even have the grace to say “thanks.” You’d be pretty ticked off, right? It’s human nature.

    Now imagine an even worse situation: I was created by a God who planned for me to burn in Hell for all eternity, but Jesus came along and allowed himself to be tortured instead. His torture satisfied the bloodlust of his father so that now I can go to Heaven, and in exchange for this generousity all I have to do is believe in Jesus and say a few prayers, but I don’t. How rude! How ungrateful! What a bitch!

  46. Joe-

    The problem is that just about any movie on the death of Christ can be viewed by strongly anti-Semitic audiences as an affirmation of their beliefs, if the movie is reasonably consistent with the Gospels. There’s no denying that some of the instigators against Jesus were Jews, and hard-core anti-Semites will walk out of any movie on the death of Christ saying “See, I told you so!”

    That’s not to say that some movies aren’t genuinely anti-Semitic, but the Passion requires a more careful examination before that conclusion is reached. Some of your other posts on the subject have given it a good examination, and while I may not share your conclusion I recognize they were good posts. But you can’t make the case by simply pointing to how a Saudi audience responds to the movie, particularly what they say publicly in a police state where anti-Semitism is one of the few things that won’t get them in trouble with the secret police.

  47. You could probably show Mohammed in film nowadays in the M.E., so long as you put in a scene with him kicking a Jew – any Jew – in the ribs to appease the Arab League film ratings boards.

    They could have found a reason to hate Jews in a Mel Brooks movie.

    One might find plenty of reason to hate Jews while living in the Gaza Strip. Or in jeweler’s row, depending on your history. The media speaks most compellingly to youth; IAF probably hopes this film will inspire more young Arab dumbasses will blow themselves up in quixotic quests for ethereal virgin pussy.

    Like that fact has ever kept Christians or Muslims from wantonly slaughtering Jews whenever they got the desire to do so

    Inane hyperbole. Shall we continue with similar observations, such as how all Muslims are terrorists, and Notre Dame needs to harness the awwwwwwesome power of The Black Athlete?

  48. Yeah, I guess you’re right, thoreau. Perhaps a better test would be middle and eastern Europe, where antisemitism is more an antiquated folk tradition than official ideology, and the public could go either way with their reaction.

  49. Just want to confirm Joe’s comment about the toothpaste, from China (not Japan). The toothpaste is one of the more popular here.

    It has a face of someone from a minstrel show on the front. The English name is “Darlie”, but the Chinese is still “Black-man toothpaste”. They had actually changed the English name a few years ago… it used to be called “Darkie”.

  50. Religion predates humanity.

    Religion, like science and mathematics, is a human construct and as such cannot predate humanity.

  51. The English name is “Darlie”, but the Chinese is still “Black-man toothpaste”.

    Somewhat off-topic but I find it interesting…is that product patently offensive and “racist”?

  52. Joe,

    You’re going soft on us! Shouldn’t you be holding to your point that if Gibson knew (or at least should have known) that his film would be used as fodder for anti-semites, then he was irresponsible at best for knowingly feeding the anti-semites’ cause regardless of whether the film should be seen that way by some theoretically “objective” standard?

  53. RST:
    When I said “religion predates humanity,” replace “humanity” with “Homo sapiens.” Apparently, our ancestors had religion of some sort before they were anatomically modern humans.

  54. Oh, I still hold that point. I’m just ceding the argument that the reaction to the film in Muslim countries demonstrates that point.

  55. DJ-
    Suppose some magical person comes along and offers you anything you want, up to and including eternal life, in exchange for which all you have to do is believe the world is flat. Can you do that? Not “say” the world is flat, but actually believe it: ignore all you know of science, physics, geology et al, and rearrange your mental furniture so that you really think the Earth has an edge and you’ll fall off it if you get too close. Can you do that? Probably not. Same thing goes for atheists told to “just believe” in God.

  56. Dear Jennifer,
    A lot of people on this and previous threads have said or implied that rational people reject Christianity, while “pre-rational” and anti-scientific types are stupid or naive enough to accept it. I would really recommend N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, which examines the question “What is the most rational thing to believe about what actually took place on Easter Sunday?” (my paraphrase, not his words.) I don’t expect the book to convert you overnight, but it might at least make you realize that your opponents are intellectually serious people.
    Also, I see that it is time for me to continue my one-man crusade to educate people about the Old Testament penal code and its relationship to modern Christianity. It is true that Torah/Pentateuch mandates the death penalty for a number of crimes – witchcraft, sabbath-breaking, adultery, etc. It also mandates a lot of other things – kosher dietary laws, for example. However, mainstream Christians do not believe that these laws are any longer in force. This was the great controversy of early Christianity. One faction wanted Gentile converts to adhere to the Jewish law, while the faction led by St. Paul oppposed this. The controversy raged for several decades, but Paul eventually won. As a result, modern-day Christians do not have to circumcise their children on the eighth day after birth, can eat pork and shellfish if they want, and do not have to stone adulteresses and burn witches. It is true that, especially in the case of witches, some Christians have implemented the Torah’s penal code anyway. However, this is no longer the stance of the Catholic Church or any other mainstream church. Unless you’re dealing with a member of a fringe group, then, this is a straw man argument.

  57. Jen,
    Yep. But I do know of Islamic to Christian converts in Egypt and I have relatives that have strayed away and gone back (not sure any have gone as far as atheism). I think I’m somewhat safe in the no man’s land of deism.

    Personally, I agreee with you about the Christianity vs. Islam thing. I prefer the love the God model of Christianity than the fear the God and everything you do is the “will of God” model of Islam. Not sure if it’s because of the current incarnation or something structural (Christianity used to be much the same way).

    Islam admits that not everyone’s gonna be Muslim (so there’s no point trying) and that some Jews and Christians are going to heaven (number not specified. Pagans and atheists are right out). So I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think you’re a bigot and I know that the Islam I grew up with is completely different than the brand that’s preached in most of the world. Egypt is one of the more liberal Islamic countries, religiously, so it would make sense that Egyptians would be the most liberal, immigrant Muslims stateside. I remember when my family went to a new mosque after we moved and my parents were really bothered by how conservative they were. My family wasn’t that religious. We went to mosque every week and fasted, but I don’t remember any prayer outside of Ramadan and the weekly mosque (except when relatives visited, then they would pray).

    I would be happy to see Islam evolve to the level of tolerance and ecumenicalism of modern Christianity.

  58. Dear Jennifer,
    A lot of people on this and previous threads have said or implied that rational people reject Christianity, while “pre-rational” and anti-scientific types are stupid or naive enough to accept it. I would really recommend N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, which examines the question “What is the most rational thing to believe about what actually took place on Easter Sunday?” (my paraphrase, not his words.) I don’t expect the book to convert you overnight, but it might at least make you realize that your opponents are intellectually serious people.
    Also, I see that it is time for me to continue my one-man crusade to educate people about the Old Testament penal code and its relationship to modern Christianity. It is true that Torah/Pentateuch mandates the death penalty for a number of crimes – witchcraft, sabbath-breaking, adultery, etc. It also mandates a lot of other things – kosher dietary laws, for example. However, mainstream Christians do not believe that these laws are any longer in force. This was the great controversy of early Christianity. One faction wanted Gentile converts to adhere to the Jewish law, while the faction led by St. Paul oppposed this. The controversy raged for several decades, but Paul eventually won. As a result, modern-day Christians do not have to circumcise their children on the eighth day after birth, can eat pork and shellfish if they want, and do not have to stone adulteresses and burn witches. It is true that, especially in the case of witches, some Christians have implemented the Torah’s penal code anyway. However, this is no longer the stance of the Catholic Church or any other mainstream church. Unless you’re dealing with a member of a fringe group, then, this is a straw man argument.

  59. Dear Jennifer,
    A lot of people on this and previous threads have said or implied that rational people reject Christianity, while “pre-rational” and anti-scientific types are stupid or naive enough to accept it. I would really recommend N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, which examines the question “What is the most rational thing to believe about what actually took place on Easter Sunday?” (my paraphrase, not his words.) I don’t expect the book to convert you overnight, but it might at least make you realize that your opponents are intellectually serious people.
    Also, I see that it is time for me to continue my one-man crusade to educate people about the Old Testament penal code and its relationship to modern Christianity. It is true that Torah/Pentateuch mandates the death penalty for a number of crimes – witchcraft, sabbath-breaking, adultery, etc. It also mandates a lot of other things – kosher dietary laws, for example. However, mainstream Christians do not believe that these laws are any longer in force. This was the great controversy of early Christianity. One faction wanted Gentile converts to adhere to the Jewish law, while the faction led by St. Paul oppposed this. The controversy raged for several decades, but Paul eventually won. As a result, modern-day Christians do not have to circumcise their children on the eighth day after birth, can eat pork and shellfish if they want, and do not have to stone adulteresses and burn witches. It is true that, especially in the case of witches, some Christians have implemented the Torah’s penal code anyway. However, this is no longer the stance of the Catholic Church or any other mainstream church. Unless you’re dealing with a member of a fringe group, then, this is a straw man argument.

  60. Oops! Sorry for the triple post.

  61. James-
    I forgive you for the triple-post; on another thread I once managed to post something fourteen times, which may be a record.

    I do not deny that some intelligent people believe in various religions; I was merely trying to point out that, despite DJ’s advice, tellng somebody to “just believe” is not a matter as simple as changing your socks or deciding to cut calories out of your diet.

    Seriously, though: would you be capable of convincing yourself that the world is flat? In all honesty I’d worry if you did. I gave up my religious beliefs with the utmost reluctance, after being overwhelmed by the scientific evidence. Unless I can manage to unlearn or forget all that I know, belief for me is impossible, just as it is probably impossible for you to believe that the Titanic fell off the edge of the earth and is now floating somewhere in space.

  62. James has a good point and explains why I haven’t ever completely written off religion. There are a lot of people that I respect immensely, both as people and intellectually, that are very religious. For example, one of my closest friends is a Protestant geneticist and the smartest guy I know is a Catholic that works for the Smithsonian developing theories on the creation of galaxies and the universe. I have no reason to believe that I am right and they are not. I have my personal reasons, of course, but I have no evidence that my view is the correct one.

    It doesn’t mean I’m going to concede my viewpoint because some brilliant guys I know have a different viewpoint, but I’m not as quick to dismiss the religious as superstitious fools (unless of course they happen to be superstitious fool, but that’s independent of the religion). Jennifer’s point still stands, if you have a deep seated belief that God doesn’t exist, just saying “believe” isn’t going to change it.

    James brings up an Interesting point of Judaic law. A lot of it would be considered barbaric by today’s standards and most of them are attributed to modern day Christians. Outside the dietary laws, most of them are no longer enforced, why is that? And why are Jews given a free pass to call Islamic laws barbaric, when they have more barbaric laws (albeit unenforced)?

    Bonus sidebar: The stonings that occur in Islamic countries do not have any Koranic basis. The hadith that this is based on regards the punishment of a Jewish adultress. The prophet Muhammed was asked how she should be punished. He said she should be punished by the law of her own religion. This is what set the precedence for the modern interpretation.

  63. James Kabala,

    What is the rationale for ignoring or revising the dictates of the Old Testament? Is the whole book obsolete, or only (cherry-picked?) portions? If the latter, on what basis is it decided (and who decides) which parts are valid and which aren’t? And if it was the word of God to begin with, how could any human decide that any of it did not apply?

  64. Mo-
    On other postings people have said things along the line of “Islam needs its own Protestant Reformation,” but now that I think about it I don’t know if that would be possible. One ‘advantage’ of Judeo-Christianity (from the perspective of an atheist forced to live in a religious framework) is that unlike the Koran, the Bible was written by a huge number of people who often contradict each other, making it easy (nay, inevitable) for conflicting interpretations to arise.

    Meanwhile, the one time anyone notes a discrepancy in the Koran that whole Satanic verses bit arises, and a mediocre British writer ends up living under a death sentence.

    On the other hand, a thousand or so years ago it was the civilized Muslim world rightfully turning up its collective nose up against the vulgar barbaric Christian fanatics. I think problems of fanatic societies don’t stem from either the Bible or the Koran, so much as they stem from the fact that the holy books are viewed as the only source of knowledge. Hell, even the Girl Scouts would be evil fucking fanatics if they got into power and outlawed anything different from the Girl Scout Handbook. “On my honor I will try to serve God, my country and mankind, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” Phooey on all that.

  65. Mo-
    Just wanted to comment on what you said, about your scientist friends who still believe in God. I think the difference between them and me is that they probably take the attitude, “Since you can’t prove a negative, and nobody can prove God doesn’t exist, I will believe that he does.”

    Atheists, meanwhile, believe “Since nobody can prove God does exist, I will believe that he doesn’t.” Make of that what you will.

  66. Dear Jennifer,
    I wasn’t referring specifically to your flat-earth post, which I can see the point behind. I was more referring to your whole body of posts (or actually, the whole body of posts by the non-religious, since you have been much more polite than some others).

    Dear Fyodor,
    I thought that I had kind of explained it, but I guess that I didn’t do do well enough. I will try again, but I am not a professional (or even an amateur) theologian, so my interpretation may be confused or garbled. Here goes, however:

    The law code of the Jews (a.ka. the Torah, the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch) was supposed to be a way to set them apart from the nations as God’s peculiar people. They were to keep themselves distinctive and holy by circumcising their sons as a sign of their covenant with God, avoiding foods that God had declared unclean (e.g., pork), by cleansing the community of especially grave sins by executing the offender, and by offering animal sacrifices in reparation for less serious sins. With the coming of Christ, everything changed. His death took away the punishment for all sins, removing the need for animal sacrifices, and the preaching of the Gospel to all mankind removed the need for the Jews to be set apart as the holy people. (See Acts 10, where God commands Peter to eat unclean animals as an allegory for the command to begin preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.) The moral parts of the Torah (e.g., the Ten Commandments) remain in force, but the purely ritual parts (circumcision, no pork, etc.) do not, and the same goes for the penal code. Since most of this is spelled out in the New Testament itself, espeically the letters of St. Paul, the idea is that it is still the Word of God, not “any human”, that has declared this.
    If after reading all this, you still think Christianity is nonsense, I respect that. I just hope people recognize that the Christian worldview IS intellectually coherent and that smart people were not invented in 1965. (Most of the “What about this weird verse?” arguments have been around for centuries and were considered by Augustine, Aquinas, and the other greats.)
    I think that Mo raises an interesting point. If any observant Jews should read this, I would curious to know why the death penalty parts of the Torah are no longer considered binding (or they?) I think that it has something to do with Talmudic interpretation making the standard of evidence for a death standard so high as to be almost impossible to meet, but I am not sure.

  67. Jennifer-

    I’m a late-comer to your subject of missionaries endangering souls, but some of my fundamentalist friends believe that those who haven’t heard of Jesus are damned no matter what, so missionaries can’t possibly make it any worse.

    I’m a Catholic of a much more relaxed variety. I remember debating with a friend “So, what if the missionary’s boat sinks just short of the island? How many pages of the Bible would have to wash ashore for the natives to be saved, assuming they could translate it?” I can’t recall his answer.

    I also recall seeing a documentary on some murderer who found Jesus. The murderer never said “I’ve done awful things and I feel horrible and I’m so glad salvation is possible.” He just said “Well, I believe, so I’m saved, so what does it matter that I killed those people?” Somehow I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind…

  68. Typo alert:
    I meant “death sentence”, nor “death standard.”

  69. I recall reading on this forum a week or two ago that a handful of Syrians still speak Aramaic. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Have any of them weighed in on the dialogue?

    I can just imagine it now:

    “Well, when the Zionist conspirators betrayed Jesus they really delivered their lines well. Excellent pronunciation by the Jewish dogs. And the decadent westerners who wrote the script clearly have a solid grasp of Aramaic grammar. The Jews and Americans may be the source of all evil, but at least they’re good linguists. Two thumbs up!”

  70. Thoreau-
    In order that the natives be saved, I’m sure any old part of the Bible that washed ashore would do fine. “And Schlomo begat Hazzabum, and Hazzabum begat Bardrock, and Bardrock begat Meshugganeh, and Meshugganeh begat Yarmulke. . . .”

    I feel inspired already.

  71. James Kabala,

    Thanks for the lengthy explanation, that’s interesting. So the New Testament explicity says that the moral portions of the Old Testament still count, but the ritualistic portions and the penal code are out–do I have that right? Are all Christian theologians in agreement with that? Where’s the part about homosexuality being an abomination before God figure in?

  72. Hey Mo,
    You can still be saved. There is this door in Pakistan that if you walk through, you are guaranteed to go to heaven. It only opens once a year, and unsurprisingly there are big crowds. But I walked through it three times. I figured it would cover my doubts in God/Allah, my past sins and my future ones.

    Now I am recomending it to you. When you die you can hang out with me, Jen and some of the other posters on these threads.

  73. Koran kwoter,
    I agree with your point, that if you are antisemetica and you want to find antisemitism you will find it.

    However, I suspect the Moslems coming out of the movie theater saying how it showed the truth, they were not talking about the truth of Jesus being crucified, they were talking about the truth of the Jews plotting to kill the first true prophet of God after Moses. Plotting to kill him and discredit his message much as they try to do to Mohammed and his message.

    My history is not the greatest, but I think that Mohammed had some issues with the jews along those lines when he was in Medina spreading his religion. Perhaps Mo could address that one better.

    In any case I hear conflicting responses about whether there was widespread antisemitism in the Islamic world before Israel.

  74. Jennifer,
    “if good people who have never heard of Jesus are allowed to go to Heaven, then isn’t funding missionaries kind of sinful? You know, endangering people’s souls?”

    The question of what happens to people’s souls who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible is one of the unknowns of Christianity. The Bible does not say one way or the other. I have no doubt your missionary believed what he said, but it’s not Biblically based. The fact is, the Bible says nothing about it. As Christians, we can assume and speculate and guess, but that’s about it.

  75. kwais,
    I believe he did have some issues with the Jews, though I can’t say I know precisely what. This was never really talked about when I was younger and, to be frank, my knowledge of Islam isn’t that thorough.

    Jennifer,
    Trust me, there are plenty of contradictions in the Koran as well. Ranging from kill the infidels to leave the infidels be and let God decide. It’s easy and inevitable for contradictions, but they are mostly ignored by TPTB. A big problem is that the Saudis fund a good percentage of global mosques, so they are able to better control the message. The conservative mosque I mentioned above was built w/ Saudi bucks and was much nicer than our small local mosque.

    I think a reformation is ideal, but that won’t come until there is a reformation that starts in Saudi Arabia, some of the more populous (but poorer) Muslim states speak out and press forward or the Saudi’s lose a lot of their economic clout, which would reduce their political clout.

  76. the problem (one of many) with the idea of a muslim “protestant reformation” is that it took a few hundred years, a few dozen wars and an awful lot of dead bodies to remove christianity from direct state control in europe.

    not a pleasant prospect considering current situations.

  77. I’ll join this religious discussion group
    just to say that none of us probably deserve
    to enter into Heaven, that is, the presence of God.
    Yet, we do have choice, and why not keep an open mind?

    Jennifer asked a missionary a question,
    didn’t like the answer, and denied Jesus.
    Care should be taken to discern believing in people
    vs believing in a higher power than ourselves.

    Why not go beyond the missionary, seeking her own answer?
    Why not ask Jesus? How does she do that?
    1st from the testimony of the New Testament,
    especially the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
    2nd, from reflection upon those reading from within yourself.
    3rd, from prayer, from asking for something to be revealed,
    not just from without, but from within.

    Jesus was a cool dude, if I may speak in such a way.
    Jesus was a rebel. He questioned Jewish law.
    Was it OK to do good on the Sabbath?
    Was it what goes into the mouth, or what comes out of it,
    that defiles the body, and soul?
    Is it enough to just love those that love you?
    What gain is there in that?
    If Jesus had just been a man, what a man He was!

    Jesus met Simon, the fisherman, and gave him a nickname,
    Peter = Petros = Rock = Rocky…still popular today
    for a rough neck, physical guy…a name that fits.
    “Sons of Thunder” Jesus called brothers James and John.

    Jesus offered us choice, our free will choice.
    We can deny or accept, then live and die with that choice.
    We can fool ourselves or others, but not God.

    We can believe in nothing beyond ourselves,
    that we come from nothing, with nothing expected,
    and that we return to nothing more than the dust we are.

    If I’m going to believe in anything or anyone,
    Jesus is good enough for me, and by all Jesus said,
    I can confess, repent, be baptized in His name,
    and be good enough for Him. Not easy to do,
    to give yourself up, surrender, all by faith.

    Why dwell on dotted ‘i’s and crossed ‘t’s
    when you can go to the heart of the word?
    “In the beginning was the Word,
    and the Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.” — John 1:1

    From there the search both ends and begins.

  78. dhex,
    Good point, but it’s not all bad. One, movement changes happen faster now because of the flow of information, increased external pressure and a model for a reformation. Second, most of those wars due to the reformation were internal. This is bad, but it’ll reduce the pain in the west. Not saying that a reformation will be painless, no major change is, but it’s better than the current situation.

  79. “However, I suspect the Moslems coming out of the movie theater saying how it showed the truth, they were not talking about the truth of Jesus being crucified, they were talking about the truth of the Jews plotting to kill the first true prophet of God after Moses.”

    In short, they seem to have liked those parts of the movie that confirmed their prejudices, while ignoring the part about Jesus actually being crucified, since that part conflicted with their Muslim beliefs.

    Thus, it seems that they picked out the parts of the movie they already agreed with, and discarded the parts they didn’t agree with. In short, it simply reinforced their pre-existing prejudices; it didn’t incite them.

    A key part of the movie is where Mel makes very clear that Jesus’ “Father forgive them” is applicable to his Jewish as well as his Gentile enemies. This is based on the Bible, but Mel adds some non-Scriptural details to reinforce the point. If the movie incites its viewers to action, why won’t it incite people to forgive their enemies as Christ forgave His enemies? I doubt it will have this effect on die-hard anti-Semites, but anyone worried about “the effect of the movie’s message” should logically concede that forgiveness is part of that message.

    Don’t forget, as well, that when Simon (the guy who carried Jesus’ Cross) tries to stop people from hassling Jesus, a Roman soldier contemptously calls Simon a Jew. This extra-Scriptural scene has a bad guy using an anti-Semitic epithet against a good guy, thus underlining the badness of anti-Semitism. If the movie is so influential, won’t this scene influence the audience to avoid being anti-Semitic?

    And what ever happened to “chill out, guys, it’s only a movie?”

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