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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Famed author takes on Kansas

Rushdie bemoans role of religion in public life

October 7, 2005

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Citizens of the world should be concerned about religious extremism whether it's in Iran or America, says author Salman Rushdie, who was once marked for death by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.

Rushdie compared the emergence of religion into public life in Kansas with similar movements across the world in a lecture Thursday at the Lied Center.

"I would really love never to mention that word again: religion," Rushdie said. "But now it seems to be coming right at us all. I don't just mean radical Islam, by the way. I believe we have some problems right here."

Rushdie received a standing ovation after the lecture, in which he revealed his thoughts on writing and receiving death threats and also blasted religion, intelligent design and the best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code."

The standing-room-only event was presented by the Hall Center for the Humanities.

Rushdie is the winner of numerous awards, including the Booker Prize. His latest novel is "Shalimar the Clown."

In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini responded to Rushdie's depiction of Islam in the novel "The Satanic Verses" by issuing a death sentence against the author. Rushdie went into hiding for nearly a decade. The sentence, or fatwa, was withdrawn about seven years ago.

"The reason why his case was so sensational was because much of the world believes in freedom of the press," Kansas University English professor Paul Lim said. "That's why his case startled everybody."

In his books, Rushdie explores religion, culture and politics.

With his own form of magic realism, he presses the boundaries of literary convention, said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, associate professor of English. And he deals with complex subjects.

"He's captured better than any other the conditions of migrancy and hybridity that make up our world today," Caminero-Santangelo said.

Though he received renown after the fatwa, Rushdie's prominence is ultimately the result of his powerful writing, Caminero-Santangelo said.

He recalled reading Rushdie's book "Midnight's Children" for the first time.

"It's a daunting work," he said. "After a while I could not put it down. It's unusual sometimes to find a fantastic writer who has such a tremendous grasp of the language and is experimenting with narrative forms and at the same time produces page turners."

Rushdie told the crowd that religion has much potential to do harm in the world today.

"It's a pretty bad time for us who don't believe that superstition should rule the world," he said.

When asked how rationalism could win the fight against religion, Rushdie said with ridicule, argument and battle.

When he was young, the 58-year-old said, he and others thought they'd won the battle. So they turned their heads.

We were "so busy having fun that all the uncool people took over the world," he said.

And this superstition needs to be pushed back in the cupboard where it belongs, he said.

Rushdie also blasted intelligent design proponents.

"I never had any doubts about evolution theory," he said. "I gather there are parts of Kansas where the big bang did not take place."

He expounded on writing.

There is something in the art of the novel that wants to be provincial and to deal with such topics as one lonely wife's infidelity, he said.

Past Event
Conversation with Salman Rushdie

  • When: Friday, October 7, 2005, 10:30 a.m.
  • Where: Woodruff Auditorium, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence
  • Cost: Free
  • More on this event....

But Rushdie, who spent his early years in India, said his life experiences spurred him to bring more global issues into the novel.

"If you've had the kind of life I've had, you begin to think that history and private life are getting hard to separate" even for the affluent, he said.

He bashed Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code."

"Do not start me on 'The Da Vinci Code,'" Rushdie said. "A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name."

Rushdie once traveled with bodyguards, and some law enforcement personnel were at the Lied Center on Thursday.

Tim Van Leer, the Lied Center's executive director, said Rushdie's representatives did not request additional security.

KU Police would not say whether they upped security for Thursday's event.

"We like to keep those things to ourselves," said Capt. Schuyler Bailey, of KU's Public Safety Office.

Rushdie reflected on his time living with a bounty over his head.

He said writers and politicians attempt to describe reality, and there can be struggles over who has the power over "the grand narrative."

But, as for the basic question "Should you kill people because you don't like their books?" Rushdie said no.

"Even Dan Brown must live," he said. "Preferably not write, but live."

Comments

Jeff Barclay 8 years, 12 months ago

I suppose to Rushdie, it is a shame that Kansas' early Christians led the charge for us to be a free state. Just think, if there had been no Christians in Kansas, early settlers might have been able to keep their slaves. Yep, better keep your eye on those Christians. Next thing you know they will start trying to save babies from abortion.

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DBB 8 years, 11 months ago

To suggest that only liberals or only conservatives do something is absurd. Idiots appear everywhere on the political spectrum, and to pretend they only exist among people who don't agree with you is incredibly immature.

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whosaid 8 years, 12 months ago

Barclay and coldandhot-- So you are supporters of religious extremism? Wooohooo---let's all put on our Nike's and drink some Kool-Aid or maybe we can participate in flirty fishing. It will be all in the name of Jesus--great fun!

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mssking1 8 years, 12 months ago

I didn't see where Barclay and coldandhot said they were religious extremists....you don't have to be an extremist to believe in Jesus and religion. This country was founded on the belief of God and the right to worship in your own way. I'm so sick of the minority trying to get rid of religion in our country--if I wanted to be oppressed I'd move to a country where this freedom doesn't exist. If you are unhappy w/religion--don't go to church, pray or read religious copy, that's your right. My right is to pray, say the pledge of allegiance keeping the word God in it, and see the words "in God we trust" on the currency.......

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memoirs_of_a_sleepwalker 8 years, 12 months ago

Mss King, First, turn off the reality TV and read Rushdie. Second, go back and carefully read our country's founding documents. This nation was founded on a belief in God, but NOT on the Christianity you want to see emblazoned all over the country. Repeat, this country was not founded on Christianity. Repeat, "Nature's God." Go back and reread Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, etc. Quite coincidentally, there are both "liberals" and "conservatives" in that list. Hmmm . . .

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Dani Davey 8 years, 12 months ago

Just playing a little devils advocate here...

mssking1, you do indeed enjoy that freedom. But why should those who are unhappy with religion be force to use a currency that says "in God we trust"? Why should those unhappy with religion have to send their kids to schools to learn about creationism/ID? Why should the elementary school kids of those who are unhappy with religion have to say the pledge of allegiance with God in it at school? The same freedom you enjoy to worship as you desire, protects those unhappy with religion from having it forced upon them in the public realm. I don't think anyone wants to get rid of religion, they just want it kept in the churches where it belongs.

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weterica 8 years, 12 months ago

Barclay's facetious comments prove many of Rushdie's points. And the use of humor to highlight the absurdity of religious virtue claims is brilliant.

"Just think, if there had been no Christians in Kansas, early settlers might have been able to keep their slaves."

This misrepresentation of history is indeed what many on the right would use as decoration for baseless platitudes. This is very funny stuff.

Barclay, in using this comment, I'm sure is directly referencing the fact that slave owners were Christians, and used the bible to justify enslavement (and why shouldn't they have, it's all in there?). And as Kansans, we can find this pointed humor doubly effective in that one our state's most notable historical sites is the Shawnee Indian Mission, which was of course run by the Methodist minister, Thomas Johnson, a pro-slavery advocate during the Bleeding Kansas era.

Good stuff. Rushdie would be proud.

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dlkrm 8 years, 12 months ago

Weterica, as hard as it is for you to admit it, the fight against slavery WAS led by Christians. The fight against baby killing will be won by Christians. The attempt by the left to re-write history has been reversed, and that is one of the things that has them so flummoxed.

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enochville 8 years, 12 months ago

I agree that public schools and universities should not be pro-religion, but I also believe that they should not be hostile to religion. Yet, KU seems to keep inviting speakers who are clearly anti-religion. Rushdie is the most extreme, but I attended Steven Pinker's lecture, whom I like in general and recommend his book "How the Mind Works", yet he made several statements during his talk that ridiculed those of us who practice religion. There have been others as well.

As a culture we have become sensitive to race and gender discrimination, and we find it completely unacceptable to ridicule or persecute those groups. We need to put pressure on people to not ridicule anyone or group of people. It speaks to your character when you put others down.

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concerned_citizen 8 years, 12 months ago

It is too bad that complete anti-religious bigotry of the kind espoused by Mr. Rushdie is held up to be the pinacle of modern free thought.

He believes that ANY religious belief is extreme, if it is spoken of in the public square.

He is yet another anti-theist (not atheist) who believes that someone holding a belief he doesn't like is automatically an extremist. He's had huge public audiences in America, and not even Fred Phelps showed up to protest him. That's good ol' American religious extremism - giving him an unobstructed forum in which to vent his spleen. In his own country he'd have been killed by REAL religious extremists.

He's a bigot in trendy, intellectual trappings. Deliberately missed his rant, er...talk. Heard him before. Not impressed.

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yourworstnightmare 8 years, 12 months ago

It is a pleasure to see the religious ignorants up in arms over Rushdie's brilliant comments. Wake up and smell the coffee, fools. You can't click your heels together and wish the world were a certain way.

The problems in Kansas and the nation have their roots in religious wishful thinking: evolution, stem cells, discrimination. "Oh my, [evolution/gays/stemcells/etc.] upset my delicate little worldview." Click click, "I wish they didn't exist." Bunch of spoiled little Dorothys.

We need many more anti-theists in Kansas and the world to fight the Kansas Taliban and the Asian Taliban, and religion wherever it trespasses into public life.

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mssking1 8 years, 12 months ago

Memoirs---the kids can be home schooled, go to a private school where the "Pledge" is not said or choose not to participate in the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance but why should my kids suffer because you don't want yours to hear it, as far as the currency goes-get over it and I never said this country was founded on the belief of Christianity, I said it was founded on the belief in God. The "Pledge" does not say anything about Christianity--It says "one nation under God"-our currency does not say anything about Christianity--it says "in God we trust". Get over yourself

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Confrontation 8 years, 12 months ago

concerned_citizen: Fred Phelps' evil buddies were there protesting.

Rushdie is an amazing writer. Maybe KU brings in people with anti-religious views, because those people just happen to be the most interesting and worthwhile to have on campus. Rushdie was pretty specific when he said that he has NO problem with people practicing religion, as long as they kept it private. Religion has always been a major cause of wars and hatred. Honesty, regardless of your religion of choice, would anyone believe someone today who claims to receive messages straight from God? That person would be institutionalized. Most of the people today follow the teachings of someone who made these outrageous claims. Please keep your opinion in your home and place of worship.

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ksbearsfan 8 years, 12 months ago

Let me get this straight, if I read this right Mr. Rushdie believes that those people including myself who practice religion should be ridiculed. I pity a world without religion. And for those who ask why should a child in school be subject to creationism, why should a christian child be forced to learn evolutionism? Both are subject to scrutiny and neither will ever be proven to be absolute fact. Teach both and let their parents teach them religion or not. This aggressive attempt at stomping out religion in America by Mr. Rushdie I for one find very disturbing.

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bobi 8 years, 12 months ago

The news article mentions that Rushdie received a standing ovation for his words. My guess would be that he only attracted extreme liberal minded people in the first place. All he did was to reiterate what those in attendance already believed.

A man in a chicken suit could have accomplished this.

Wonder if there were any moderate Christians in the audience?

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Confrontation 8 years, 12 months ago

Hey bobi-I was there last night, and I had a great view from the front row of the balcony. I would say that 75% of those in attendance were senior citizens, and I recognized several of them from my contact with local congregations, as well as from my days at KU. I know for a fact that most of the people I recognized attend church and practice some sort of religion. Don't assume that only extreme liberals respect someone's freedom of speech. Even those like you can show respect.

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bobi 8 years, 12 months ago

Confrontation

There is no way possible you could have known the make up of the audience. You might be able to see that there were a lot of seniors, however, I doubt seriously that you could know church goers at a glance.

Church attendance does not make one a Christian.

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enochville 8 years, 12 months ago

Confrontation: I understand and share the concerns of those who favor a separation of church and state. Although I am a Christian, I feel that some people are overstepping their bounds by trying to force religion in the school or legislate religious beliefs. I support moderate speakers who promote a healthy sensitivity to those who don't share the majority's belief in God, etc. But, I have a real problem with extremists like Rushdie who clearly mock the beliefs which some people hold sacred. I find his comments utterly inappropriate. You said he made a point that he has no problem with the private practice of religion. He may have said that, but that does not fit with other statements he made, such as, "When asked how rationalism could win the fight against religion, Rushdie said with ridicule, argument and battle", and "And this superstition needs to be pushed back in the cupboard where it belongs".

He seems as extreme in his way as Fred Phelps is in his; both are intolerant and offensive.

You said, "Maybe KU brings in people with anti-religious views, because those people just happen to be the most interesting and worthwhile to have on campus". There are multitudes of intelligent, interesting speakers KU could invite to speak. I don't care whether they are religious or not, just as long as they don't ridicule the religious beliefs of some.

You also said, "Would anyone believe someone today who claims to receive messages straight from God?" I do believe in a prophet living today that receives revelations from God. For me, it is not just a matter of faith, I have received sufficient evidences that my belief is well founded.

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concerned_citizen 8 years, 12 months ago

I think then that perhaps Confrontation is of the same mind as many who would seek to have complete homogeneity in public thought. Those with competing world views - theist vs anti-theist should keep their mouths shut when in his/her presence. I recall the Nazi's and Communists making similar demands of their fellow citizens. It didn't work out so well.

"Please keep your opinion in your home and place of worship"

Does that apply to all of my opinion or just the ones you personally have problems with? Religious speech IS free speech. Anti-religious speech IS ALSO free speech. It's too bad you don't believe in free speech for persons of faith.

Whether I believe a person who states that they receive messages straight from God is irrelevant. I'd much rather a person get their voice mail from God than the ghost of Emma Goldman. That individual has every right to make that kind of statement in a public forum. To deny that right (no matter what the ACLU says) is unconstitutional, and just plain wrong.

Mr. Rushdie is perfectly free to tell us that relgion should be banned from public view, but he is NOT free to enforce that opinion with law (yet). I would even go so far as to say that his opinions SHOULD be heard in a public forum. So should others. Others that are philosophically different. I am free to not attend either event.

If you don't like it, don't talk to religious people. If you are so non-ego formed that the presence of a person with a different set of values and talking about them where you can hear is somehow intollerable to you, then it's time to abandon the facade of tolerance and find a pair of jackboots that fit.

As a person of faith, I am much more put off by unthinking bigotry by alleged adherents to my own faith than attacks by "progressives" seeking to purge religion from their very narrow view, but I will challenge both in the arena of free speech to put up but not shut up.

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Confrontation 8 years, 12 months ago

bobi-FYI, part of my job involves working with local congregations and attending various functions. So, yes, I do know churchgoers at a glance.

Enochville-"But, I have a real problem with extremists like Rushdie who clearly mock the beliefs which some people hold sacred. I find his comments utterly inappropriate." I think you are always going to find someone mocking someone else's beliefs. What what I've read in your past comments, it seems like you an extremist of a different sort. Perhaps he would find your "comments utterly inappropriate." Can you truly be that strong in your "faith" if you can't take ridicule?

As for your belief in in "a prophet living today that receives revelations from God", go ahead and believe what you will. Just don't laugh at those people who belong to various cults and those who believe aliens are visiting them in their beds.

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bobi 8 years, 12 months ago

confrontation

What I meant was that you could not know how many church goes were in attendance simply because you recognized a few.

From your above comments made to Enochville, I wonder why someone with your obvious disbelief in God would be in a position to interact with people of faith. Are you perhaps an atheist in disguise?

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concerned_citizen 8 years, 12 months ago

"So, yes, I do know churchgoers at a glance."

I can't wait for Confrontation's pamphlet - "How to spot a Christian."

Does your expertise extend to Mosque-goers, Synagogue-goers, Zendo-goers Pagan-circle goers?

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enochville 8 years, 12 months ago

Confrontation: You are right that on occasion I have been as respectful as I should have been. I now apologize to anyone I have offended. Although I have been insensitive at times, I try not to be (I think anyone who has read all of my comments will see that), and I don't assert that ridicule is appropriate as Mr. Rushdie does. I am secure enough in my beliefs to be able to "take ridicule". I haven't flown off the handle in response to Rushdie's teachings. But, I am sensitive to the effect those words, invited to be here by the school I am paying for, has on those who hold religious beliefs. I would have the same reaction to a KKK speaker or Fred Phelps. A publicly funded school should not promote bigotry of any kind.

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enochville 8 years, 12 months ago

My first sentence should read "on occasion I have not been as respectful as I should have been"

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princess 8 years, 12 months ago

I don't think that Confrontation is saying that he/she has some special ability to recognize a Christian. And I think that you all know that and are simply mocking in order to try to feebly further your argument. One which was destroyed by your obvious lack of knowledge of this particular event.

If Confrontation frequents these congregations as part of his/her job then it seems logical that a relationship might be formed with people of said congregations. If you frequent a coffee shop and you often see several of the same people there, you would know them if you spotted them on the street wouldn't you?

This is just leading into foolishness.

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msanthrope 8 years, 12 months ago

This thread reminds me of the story that Rushdie told about the Satanic Verses protesters. When one of the protesters was asked if he had read ANY of Rushdie's work, he replied "No, books are not really my thing." And, said Rushdie, those are the people we have to worry about.

It seems to me a lot of people are incensed about something they didn't witness, know nothing about, and don't care to find out anything about. They are "suporting" their points by using mockery, illogical statements, and "facts" that are either misconstrued or flat out false.

Rushdie didn't say that people shouldn't practice religion, he said it's influence shouldn't extend to public life. That doesn't mean someone doesn't have the right to practice their religion publicly, it means religion shouldn't be so intertwined with public policy that it interferes in the lives of the non-religious. He also said he had deep respect for this grandfather, who was deeply religious, but had an open mind and didn't impose his religion on others.

KU didn't invite Rushdie to speak because he is an anti-religious zealot, they invited him because he is one of the greatest writers alive today. It is simply wrong to equate him with Fred Phelps, unless Phelps has won a Booker Prize that I am unaware of.

Nearly 2000 of us were very, very lucky to be able to see Rushdie "live" in Kansas (for free!). For those who are wondering why Rushdie is so against religious extremism, remember that ten years ago, this would have been impossible.

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Calliope877 8 years, 11 months ago

hypermark,

You made some excellent points. Kudos to you for your knowledge of history.:)

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dlkrm 8 years, 11 months ago

All of these claims that Rushdie is "one of the greatest writers alive today" are quite humorous. Rushdie would be completely unknown if not for the fatwa against him. It was the best thing that ever happened for his career, and the worst thing that could have happened for lovers of serious literature. We are to listen to his anti-religious rantings because he is a great writer? Nonsense. He is a bigot of the worst kind and a mediocre writer at best.

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calijayhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

Dlkrm,

Have you ever read any of Rushdie's work? Can you offer any support for you arguments? Or are you just one of those people who are opposed, but don't really know what they're opposed to?

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Calliope877 8 years, 11 months ago

Hi. I was forced to go to Sunday school (like alot of kids) growing up. I recall vividly a discussion I had with one of my teachers. I remember the topic fell onto how Christianity was the RIGHT religion and that people who weren't christian were all going to burn in hell. I pondered this for a moment and then I asked my teacher a question:
"So did all of the people who died before the Bible was written and before Jesus was alive all go to hell?" My teacher said, "Yes, because they were worshipping other gods besides him."
I said, "What about the cavemen?" He said, "What about the cavemen?" He had mentioned earlier that while Jesus was teaching people in Jerusalem Europeans were painting on cave walls...I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, but that's what he said. "Did the cavemen all go to hell when they died just because they didn't know about Jesus and couldn't read the Bible?" "Well, I imagine they did," he said. "But that's stupid!" I said. "Why would God punish people who never had the chance to understand?" "Well," he said, "there's no grey in between, it's all black and white, and it says in the Bible that God is jealous of other gods and idols." "But what if they didn't KNOW THAT???" At this point the teacher was getting very irritated because the other students were laughing and he didn't like my questions. So he told me that I should just have faith in the Bible and pray to God for forgiveness since I questioned his word. He later told my dad that I was being a "smart-alec" in class. I got grounded and my dad told me that it was a sin to question God's word and that I should really think about getting baptized because if I got into a car accident tomorrow I could go to Hell.

I was 10 years old.

My point in reiterating this story from my childhood is that, from my experience, the religious viewpoint is very myopic. Christian viewpoint seems to have less to do with God and love, and more to do with control and fear. I think it lies in the approach of the people who are devout in the faith rather than the faith itself. Anyone who disputes the views of a Christian (as shown on this forum) are labeled atheists, idiots, religious bigots or "lost". No, I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I should be judged an idiot just because I see things differently. I don't see how having different views would make me a bigot. And as far as being "Lost" goes -- the scare tactics used on me to make me get baptized and to stop questioning didn't work -- and my dad and I have a mutual, unspoken understanding that baptism is my personal choice and if I ever want to make it I will, but I'm not going to be scared or brainwashed into it because that's between me and God.

I don't think it's wrong to question, but it's wrong to judge others who do. I hope the students of Creationism in our public schools aren't discouraged from asking the tough questions.

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Calliope877 8 years, 11 months ago

Oh, and another thing: If Kansas public schools are going to teach Creationism, I think they should diversify. Christianity isn't the only religion that has an idea about creation on Earth. But I guess that may be too much to ask from Kansas isn't it?

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Calliope877 8 years, 11 months ago

I apologize that I have another point to make. I'm sure you "Christians" are tired from hearing from me but you're just going to have to deal with it because your forced beliefs shaped my thoughts from an early age and there will be (and there already are) people like me who'll think like me in the future: The Christian religion is very young (if you study the longevity of religions you'll know this), and like the religious ideas that came before Christianity, there will be another to take its place in far distant generations.

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hypermark 8 years, 11 months ago

While "Midnight's Children" is certainly considered a classic, by no means of the imagination would any scholar or critic consider it a "classic of children's literature." I would argue that M.C. represents one of greatest, and most compellingly complex novels to have come out of post-modernism. The Man-Booker awards obviously agreed because they saw fit to award Rushdie with the "Booker of Bookers" or the best work of fiction among the Man-Booker prize winners.

Read some of Rushide's work and research the man's life before you so flippantly attach adjectives of extremism to him. The man was forced into hiding for ten years because of religious fundamentalism. He's got a right to be a bit cynical about folks who are so fundamentally blinded they are unable to engage in serious intellectual discussions with rational dissenters.

And to dlkrm: My friend, you need to read the history of slavery before making any more comments. I would suggest reading Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Gustavus Vassa and many other slave narratives before you make such a blatantly ignorant statement. Abolitionists were considered the liberals of their day. Christianity was one of the most important ways in which slavery was rationalized by pro-slavers.

One of the most prevalent arguments by the Christians of the time was that Africans were descendants of Ham, and therefore slavery against them was justified by God. To quote Frederick Douglass "I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,--a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,--a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, --and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slave-holders find the strongest protection."

Hmm, oddly relevant considering that there are a number of incidents involving torture in our military during the tenure of an administration which subscribes to the most radical, fundamental forms of Christianity. And that administration regularly justifies their actions with religious rhetoric. Read the transcripts of Bushes speeches and you won't find that much difference between his language and the language of Islamic extremists. They both are under the delusion they are on a mission from God, and consequently all of their actions are above justification.

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YLIME 8 years, 11 months ago

Religion does so much more harm in this world than good...a way to mind control the masses... a reason to start wars and fuel hatred for people that either don't worship a god or don't worship your god

Believe it or not you can be a moral individual without making donations to a church every week and following a fictional book full of discrepancies...

It's time to open those minds people and face reality...pick up a real book for once and start to think for yourselves...recognize a great author when you are presented with one...

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DBB 8 years, 11 months ago

The speech we like isn't what needs protecting. It's the speech we don't like, the radical who says that there is no God, or the radical who says that God hates anyone who doesn't worship in a specific way. We may not like these people or what they have to say, but we must respect that they have the right to say it.

That being said, some people who claim to be Christians are no more Christian than self-proclaimed Atheists and should really learn to emulate their Savior, who won over nonbelievers with love and kindness, not hellfire and brimstone. Those people should try and live by the Ten Commandments before getting them displayed everywhere.

Non-religious people who want religious people to be open-minded should be reminded that respect goes both ways, and that they must respect the religious if they want any respect given to them. It's not open-minded to write off the opinion of someone because he reads the Bible and goes to church on Sundays.

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blog_responder 8 years, 11 months ago

Barclay's opening remark from the opening of the thread, "[I]f there had been no Christians in Kansas, early settlers might have been able to keep their slaves," is truly astonishing -- as others have noted in this thread, the slave-owners (who were, let us not forget, Christians) argued for slavery as Christians. A straightforward ay to see this is to read the debate between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. Wise and Mrs. Mason, of Virginia, available at

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/murray:@field(DOCID+@lit(lcrbmrpt1701div1))

And it should also be remembered that, in the Old Testament, slavery is perfectly normal. The laws found there specify the prices for different types of slaves. Reading the Old Testament also makes clear that the present-day banter about an unbroken tradition in support of one man-one woman marriage is simply false. In the Old Testament, it is perfectly fine for a man to marry his rape victim, to marry the slave of his wife, or to have 700 wives and hundreds of concubines (see King Solomon -- God had a problem with his wives, but the number of them, rather the fact that they weren't all Jewish).

A good source on this (it provides all the Bible passages):

http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_bibl.htm

And, wonderful though Jesus' message may have been, the early Christians listening to him did not take him to be saying that the political institution of slavery should be ended.

The Abolitionists were mostly Christian, true, but, if you will side with the Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, will you also join her in pacifism? Most right-wing Christians seem to have completely forgotten about Christ's pacifism.

At any rate, to say that the simple fact of being a believer in Christ will make you an enemy of slavery is just not true, as our own history plainly shows. I have great admiration for Christian pacifists like Lydia Maria Child, but she is certainly not like many, many Christians -- then and now.

It is said that the truth will set you free, but first you have to know the truth.

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hypermark 8 years, 11 months ago

Canuck_Guy: Maybe I should have opened by telling you that I agreed with your point, which is why I wanted to make sure you knew the correct citation for it. That misquotation has been making the rounds lately, including by Salman Rushdie on Real Time With Bill Maher, and I was only letting you know so you could use the real quote the next time a situation warranted it. And I wasn't saying your prose was inelegant; I was saying that compared to Marx whomever misquoted him lacked his prosaic sensibility. Geez.

And to dlkrm: First off: Rushdie was awarded the Man Booker award for "Midnight's Children" in 1981, one year after the publication of the novel. I believe that would qualify as pre-dating the fatwa by some seven years. The novel was heralded as one of the greatest novels of its time, and the popularity has only increased since the time of its publication; hence the Booker of Booker awards in 1993. The fatwa was issued in 1988 immediately following "Satanic Verses," one of his less favorably reviewed works.

Now, as to his anti-Christian bigotry: Read more of his articles. I'm not going to attempt to summarize them all, but Rushdie primarily directs his ire against fundamentalists who attempt to gain political control through religious means, and then use that control to achieve personal and self-serving goals. His main attacks have been on Islamic fundamentalists, and when he criticizes the USA he does so because he sees fundamentalists running the political show, instead of Constitutional values. He views theocratic governments as inherently corrupt, and that's what he opposes.

I don't even know how to argue this point with you if you don't know our history any better, but Christianity was one of the MAJOR reasons slavery was rationalized for as long as it was. Do some reading. Now, I'm not saying there weren't factions of Christianity that opposed it, but I am saying there were verifiably large numbers that supported it. I'm glad you're part of a denomination that opposed slavery, there weren't that many of them in the south pre-civil war.

And finally, you have absolutely no right to assume what my faith may be simply because I disagree with our president, or because I am able to admit to and accept the atrocities committed by "Christians" in the past. Just because I refuse to be led blindly by the nose by the GOP GONE WILD, does not mean that I'm somehow lacking in Christian faith, or that I'm from the "far left." And by the way, before 2004 I have always voted Republican. If my party hadn't been hijacked by greed masquerading as morality I wouldn't be so upset at the Christian fundamentalists. If Bush understood Christ's' teaching as well as he says he does we wouldn't be in the economic and military crisis we are in. Labeling someone or something as "left" seems to be the catch all for anything the fundamentalists disagree with these days.

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Canuck_Guy 8 years, 11 months ago

I think what makes a lot of us non-religious types skeptical about what passes for Christianity in America these days is that religious conservatives seem incapable of practising what they preach. This is hardly surprising given the seemingly obvious contradictions between Capitalism and Christianity.

The "Pursuit of the American Dream" is generally equated with the accumulation of wealth, in other words, greed. But Jesus said the chances of a rich man entering Heaven were the same as those of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Jesus said help the poor, not create more poverty. Give those less fortunate a helping hand rather than exploiting their labour for your own prosperity.

Jesus preached tolerance and forgiveness; turn the other cheek and treat your enemy like your brother; not to persecute those that are different from you.

This was his formula for breaking down the walls that divide people. These were the things that were important to him, not homosexuality and gay marriage.

Conservative Christians have created a new, self serving religion with its own set of beliefs, which makes a mockery of Jesus and what he stood for. Their political party is ripe with corruption and cronyism. Their religious leaders openly advocate murder on the airwaves. Their favourite media commentators spew forth their venom and hatred every day. They worship false idols (ie. the Stars & Stripes). They encourage their sons and daughters to kill and die in a foreign country for "Democracy" even though their President had to cheat his way to office. They speak self-righteously of the "Rapture" but their behavior seems more deserving of the "Rupture", (when the earth will split open and swallow up all the greedy, hypocritical Christians).

Lenin correctly said that, "Religion is the opiate of the masses". So you religious types should enjoy the high but remember, like any other drug, it should be taken in moderation. When you start losing your grip on reality you know you've had too much.

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hypermark 8 years, 11 months ago

Canuck_Guy: The quote you cited should not be credited to Lenin. The correct source would be Karl Marx, and in fact, you have repeated a frequently misquoted line. You will find the source which that misquotation derives from in Karl Marx's "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right." Marx was much more elegant and poetic in his prose than the blunt and overly authoritative phraseology the author of the misquote employs. The actual quote: "Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

And for those who still claim Christianity inspires morality in times of strife I direct your attention to an article which appeared in the times of London on Oct. 9th: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-525-1817081-525,00.html

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Canuck_Guy 8 years, 11 months ago

Thank you Cybermark for correcting my ignorance. I'd have known that if I hadn't lent out my copy of "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right". In future I'll make sure I give Marx credit when I misquote him.

I must also agree that I don't write with the same elegance that his prose possessed, but then again neither do you or anyone else I've read on this blog. And if Marx were alive and posted on these blog sites I doubt very few people would take the time to read through one of his political treatises and even fewer who would understand it.

I know we are all impressed with your intellectual acumen but if you have a disagreement with the substance of my remarks please spell it out, instead of acting like some condescending English professor.

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dlkrm 8 years, 11 months ago

Hypermark:

You clearly confuse the actions of a few individuals with the teachings of Christ. I am actually a member of a denomination that led the battle against slavery. One can always find exceptions, but to be blinded by a preconceived hatred of all things Christian is unfortunate. And your blind hatred rings loud and clear as you bring comments about Bush into your argument. The left has no ideas, only hate-filled rhetoric.

By the way, if someone could point out a positive review of Rushdie's literature that pre-dates his post-fatwa celebrity, I would withdraw my comments about his work. The fact is, he is feted by the media because of his flagrant anti-Christian bigotry.

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dlkrm 8 years, 11 months ago

Hypermark:

I didn't realize that labeling a person as "left" was equal to making an assumption about their religious beliefs. I think we all learned something about what the left assumes about its own membership.

The fact that some pointed to blacks as the descendants of Ham makes Christianity wrong? Again, you missed what I said in my last post. You confuse the so-called followers with the founders.

Some "Muslims" say all non-Muslims should be killed. Some "Christians" say that the Anglo-Saxons are the 12 tribes of Israel. Does this mean the teachings of the founders of these religions are wrong?

In his speeches and writings, Rushdie does attack, very directly and repeatedly, all people of faith. Apparently you are uncomfortable with this since you keep diverting attention from this point by talking about his "primary" targets.

You also confuse a lot of terms that people use but don't understand. Neither President Bush nor most of the people in the Christian right leadership are fundamentalists. As a side note, Bush is not a political conservative. Maybe he seems to be to the average Lawrence resident, but not compared to the rest of the USA. I would be interested to see the reaction of those who oppose the right if we actually had a politically conservative president.

Your "economic and military crisis" comment reminds me of a post by Canuck Guy. You need to open your eyes and see who is actually addressing poverty and freedom in the world. It is "fundamentalists", as you call them, like Rick Warren, Franklin Graham, and thousands of people in Lawrence, Kansas, who attend "fundamentalist" churches. We give our time, money, efforts, and lives to fight poverty in an attempt to actually end severe poverty around the globe. In the meantime, it is hard to see what secularists are doing to alleviate poverty other than raising taxes on the "evil rich" and proposing a worldwide 10% tax on all income to benefit the UN.

Finally, it is the ultimate double-speak to refer to the freeing of tens of millions of Arabs to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without the threat of persecution as a "military crisis."

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hypermark 8 years, 11 months ago

Fundamentalism: "A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism." How have I misunderstood the viewpoints of the Christian Right?

I'm not from Lawrence, but I'm from a state just as red, and many good Christians here are tired of our administration manipulating religious rhetoric to achieve their selfish goals. We not only want our political party back, we would also like to see the administration stop using our faith to justify their incompetence. The alleviation of persecution towards Arabs was not one of the reasons we went into the Middle East, but was only the cop-out after we failed to find any weapons. The mess I referred to was not in reference to humanitarian efforts that MUST succeed, but rather to the lack of planning and the ambiguity of our military mission. Again, if you'll take time to look at history objectively, you will realize that imposed democracies rarely ever work. Revolutions are successful only when the proletariat rise up as one and seize the power away from the corrupt. Intellectually I know that we've set the people of Iraq up to fail, but my heart hopes they don't. Time will tell.

And Franklin Graham? He's been so inflammatory toward Islam lately that even the Bush administration has attempted to distance their relationship with him. And as far as his notion that the hurricanes were part of "God's Plan" to cleanse the coast of Satanism and homosexuality? Revolting.

If you've been so blinded by ideology that you are unable to recognize something as basic as fundamentalism nothing will be gained by a discussion. And no, I didn't misunderstand what you said about slavery. I agree that those who use Christianity for their own selfish needs are not true Christians, but there were a lot of people doing just that to justify slavery. I'm not so naÃive that I miss the fact that those folks were manipulating the faith to justify their atrocious behavior, but the fact remains that the majority of the southern and large numbers of the northern, Christian faith felt that way.

As far as Rushdie, I never said he wasn't critical toward Christianity, only that he's no more critical towards Christianity than he is towards any other organized religion. Again, I may not agree with it, but in light of his history I can certainly understand it. That doesn't make his work any less valuable.

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dlkrm 8 years, 11 months ago

Proletariat? You traffic in historical myth-speak. I am sure Jefferson, Adams, and Washington would be surprised to be identified as proletarians.

In the Middle East, people have not had the freedom to even speak in favor of democracy. Now they have the means to do so. I have two Iranian families on my street, and they have both been praying for over a year that the US will topple their evil regime next. The human heart longs for freedom and people who have never known it are willing to make sacrifices to obtain it. Thousands of years of oppression goes a lot farther than it used to in denying people of the means to gain freedom. To be part of the apparatus that is freeing these people is an honor. It is not the everyday people of the Middle East who oppose freedom for Arabs, it is the American left. Why? Two reasons. First, the war in Iraq was the only thing the democrat party could find during the 2004 election cycle on which to oppose Bush. Second, and the long term concern for the American left, is that the world observing freedom in action is a death knell for liberalism.

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dlkrm 8 years, 11 months ago

I must end my posts here with a thanks to many of you. The postings on this article were extraordinarily instructive. Hypermark, fundamentalism is a movement that began in the 1920s in the US that emphasized a few particular doctrines, e.g., the inerrancy of scripture, over against the new liberal theology of the day. I pointed out your misunderstanding of the word so I could get you to tell us the connotation with which you were operating, which was so enlightening. Thanks for that.

In addition, I was able to see you use the new methods of argument used by the left. Make a statement; when it is discounted, accuse your opponent of being something awful. Therefore, we see you calling the republican party "greedy", Christians "intolerant", Franklin Graham "revolting", and so forth. This is a timeless method of arguing while losing, most heroically endorsed in recent times by Robert Byrd in 1995 when he lashed out at the republicans on his committee and called them "fascists" and "Nazis." The irony lost on him, but not on the others in the committee room, was that HE was the only one in the room who had actually risen to a leadership position in a fascist organization. But the tactic was accepted by his party, and so we see name-calling and diverting tactics from the left.

I also REALLY appreciated your argument that you used to vote with the republican party. It reminded me of the common movie line that goes something like, "I have a black friend....", in which one tries to gain credibility through an association with the group one is fighting when one's argument isn't going well.

Please have fun, all of you!

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AllegedCenter 8 years, 11 months ago

What an interesting thread! I wonder why dlkrm didn't keep his promise given his: '...if someone could point out a positive review of Rushdie's literature that pre-dates his post-fatwa celebrity, I would withdraw my comments about his work...'

and hypermark's: '...Rushdie was awarded the Man Booker award for "Midnight's Children" in 1981, one year after the publication of the novel...The novel was heralded as one of the greatest novels of its time, and the popularity has only increased since the time of its publication; hence the Booker of Booker awards in 1993. The fatwa was issued in 1988 immediately following "Satanic Verses"...'

I also wonder which of Rushdie's specific books he didn't like, and which important works of literature published in the last few years he WOULD recommend as good writing.

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yourworstnightmare 8 years, 12 months ago

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